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Logjam continues to cripple Parliament

An all-party meeting failed to break the deadlock over foreign direct investment in retail

Gulf News


An all-party meeting failed to break the standoff between India’s ruling coalition and the opposition over foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.

The meeting, convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, witnessed both sides standing firm on their stated stands. While the opposition wants to debate the government’s contentious decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail followed by voting in both Houses of Parliament, the government is not in favour of voting.

“BJP has decided very firmly and there will be no compromise... we want a discussion that ends with a vote in Lok Sabha under Rule 184, and under Rule 167 in Rajya Sabha. We will state our opinion only in Parliament; it won’t function till the government agrees on a vote,” Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said after the all-party meeting.

Parliament has remained paralysed ever since the winter session started on Thursday. Noisy scenes were witnessed in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha resulting in day-long adjournments for the third successive day yesterday (Monday). Earlier the monsoon session was a wash-out over the coal-gate scam.

“It was a good meeting. Many members said the house must run... I will appeal to the parties demanding a discussion under Rule 184 to reconsider their view, and I will discuss the sentiments expressed in the meeting with the presiding officers of the two houses,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said emerging out of the meeting that lasted for two hours.

The principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left Front are pushing hard to debate the FDI issue under Rule 184, that entails voting. The government has so far refused, arguing that an executive decision does not need Parliament’s nod.

Interestingly, the government appeared to have garnered enough numbers to ensure it sails through in the voting even before the all-party meeting started at the Parliament House. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav met Prime Minister Singh before the meeting. Despite his party’s opposition to FDI, it is learnt that Yadav assured Singh that his party would abstain during the voting.

A similar promise has also been made by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is also opposed to FDI. The two parties with a combined strength of 43 lawmakers sustain the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance government with their outside supports.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which is part of the government, had earlier relented and promised that despite its opposition to FDI, it would not vote against the government.

Even in the event of getting defeated in voting, the government will not fall. However, it will embarrass the ruling coalition and may have a crippling impact on government, which was reduced to a minority following withdrawal of support by Trinamool Congress in September.