M A I N   N E W S

FDI decision put on hold, claims Mamata
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, December 3
A determined West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has forced the UPA government to ‘suspend’ its decision to allow foreign investment in multi-brand retail trade.

While there was no official word on the government’s decision, it was Mamata Banerjee who made the announcement in Kolkata. “ I have spoken twice with Pranab Mukherjee today.I told him that our stand on FDI remains the same. Pranabda has told me that the Centre has decided to put the Cabinet’s decision on FDI on hold till a consensus is evolved,” the Trinamul Congress chief disclosed.

Refusing to comment on Mamata Banerjee’s statement, Finance Minister and Lok Sabha leader Pranab Mukherjee only said that he will make an official announcement on this issue in Parliament. Official sources, however, said that a final decision on holding back the FDI policy was yet to be taken and that efforts were on to persuade the UPA partners.

Although the Congress has officially backed the government’s decision, it was quick to react favourably to the day’s developments. “ The Congress welcomes all meaningful steps to break the stalemate over FDI,” Congress media cell chief Janardhan Dwivedi said after Mamata Banerjee’s announcement.

“In such a situation, a broad consensus is required among different stakeholders,” he added, clearly referring to the TMC’s misgivings about the FDI policy. Congress leaders, who have been uneasy over the haste with which the government cleared this policy, privately maintained that they agreed with Mamata Banerjee’s suggestion to put the policy on hold and forge a consensus on it. The UP Congress unit had been particularly upset with the timing of the decision as they believed it would have an adverse impact on the party’s electoral prospects in next year’s assembly polls.

The UPA government has consistently maintained that it would not backtrack on the new FDI policy. However, it was becoming increasingly clear that the ruling coalition would have no option but to step back after it failed to get the Trinamul Congress (TMC) chief’s support. Another key UPA partner, the DMK, was also not happy with the Cabinet decision and had suggested that the FDI policy be kept in abeyance and the Centre use this period to educate people about the benefits of opening the retail sector. However, both DMK and the TMC, had also assured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that they would not topple the government.

The UPA government was in a bind on this issue. On one hand, it had to deal with division in its own ranks and, on the other, it was faced with a united opposition, which has been pushing for a debate on the FDI policy through an adjournment motion which entails a vote. Unable to muster the numbers, an isolated Congress was unable to accept the opposition’s demand as it would have meant a defeat. As a result, Parliament has remained paralysed since it opened on November 22. The government’s crisis managers had hoped to use the four-day holiday to broker peace with the TMC but to little avail.

The BJP, which has kept up the pressure on the government, sought a formal announcement on the FDI issue, saying it will not react to Mamata Banerjee’s comments. "Till we hear from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on this issue, it will not be appropriate for the BJP to react," BJP Chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.


Opposition not convinced

New Delhi: The BJP and the Left on Saturday appeared far from convinced that the government had put the FDI in retail decision on hold and asked the UPA dispensation to make a formal announcement if it was serious about ending the deadlock in Parliament. The BJP said it would react only when the government came out with a formal announcement on putting the FDI issue on hold. The CPI also asked the government to spell out its plans categorically.



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