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All-party FDI meet finds accord elusive

New Delhi, Nov 26, 2012, DHNS: 11:24 IST

Congress banks on SP, BSP and TMC to break Parliament logjam

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An all-party meeting here on Monday failed to break the Parliament impasse over foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail with Opposition MPs refusing to retract their demand for a debate along with voting in the House.

However, the Congress hopes to restore normalcy next week as three major parties have agreed to not insist on voting.

The ruling coalition is trying its best to avoid a discussion in the Lok Sabha under Rule 184 that entails voting, as it may open the floodgates and set a precedent for parliamentary scrutiny of executive decisions in future. But it is not averse to voting, if the situation demands.

“I have appealed to those who want a discussion under Rule 184 to reconsider their views. I will discuss the matter with the presiding officers of both Houses to see how Parliament gets to work. We will find a way out,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC), which had failed to bring a no-confidence motion against the government on the FDI issue, agreed to leave it to the Speaker to decide the rule under which the discussions could be held.

The same stand has been taken by the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which provide outside support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

“About 300-350 MPs want a discussion on the FDI in retail issue, but they left it to the Speaker to decide under which rule it will be held. The Speaker may take a decision by Thursday-Friday,” Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said after the all-party meeting.

The Congress claimed the support of the DMK. But the southern party later sought a discussion on the issue among UPA partners.

The main Opposition BJP, however, refused to budge. Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, declared that there would be no compromise on the BJP demand for a discussion and voting.

But the TMC may not back the BJP, for Sushma Swaraj’s party did not back Mamata Banerjee's move to introduce a no-confidence motion last week.

The BJP and CPM gave notices to the Speaker to hold discussions under Rule 184. The TMC is unlikely to support a CPM motion.

The SP is sure to play spoilsport if the Speaker allows the BJP motion on FDI. This was made evident by SP leader Ramgopal Yadav last week when he stated that the SP would not go with the BJP on this issue.

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday before the all-party meeting.

The Congress has another weapon to tackle the BJP on Rule 184.
“In 2002, the National Democratic Alliance government did not allow a discussion on Gujarat riot, arguing it is a ‘law and order problem,’ which is a state subject, and Parliament is not the right forum to debate. So how can an executive decision be debated in Parliament now,” said a Congress leader.

He said a discussion on Balco disinvestment in 2001 was allowed because that decision was taken under Parliamentary legislation and was different from the present case.

Monday’s all-party meeting was attended by BJP leaders L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad, TMC leader Sudeep Bandyopadhayay, DMK leader T R Baalu, Biju Janata Dal leader Arjun Charan Sethi, SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav and BSP leader Mayawati.

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