FDI threatens to hijack entire House session

Last week was a washout, except for two hours on Friday

The entire week was a washout (except for two hours on Friday), thanks to a variety of issues ranging from price rise to demand for Telangana state to fall in cotton prices in Maharashtra. The entire winter session of 2010 was a washout as the Opposition stalled Parliament demanding setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee on 2G spectrum scam.

On Monday, a new issue has been added, that too a potential session-spoiler: foreign direct investment in multi-brand retailing. There is an all-out political war out there. Two government allies - DMK and Trinamool Congress - have joined hands with the Opposition to protest against last week’s cabinet decision. The FDI issue, like price rise and recent corruption scams, has further strengthened Opposition unity to mount a resurgent attack on the government.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who held an emergency meeting at his residence on Monday, is said to be firm. The government, however, has convened an all-party meet on Tuesday to break the deadlock.

Different versions
There are two versions why the government decided to allow FDI. One is that it is a deliberate political decision: with this, the government can divert attention from the troubling corruption cases and price rise. If this is the case, the fruits are already there to see. There is fierce opposition to the decision and attention has been diverted. Second version is that it will reverse the sliding rupee value. But, the moot point is when FDI will start coming to stem the rupee fall.

Govt unfazed
Political sources closely allied with the ruling UPA say it is unlikely that the government will roll back its decision. Globally, it will be seen as a weak government if it choses to reverse the cabinet approval. The ambitious move came in the face of ‘policy paralysis’ charge levelled by India Inc against the government.  The remedial decision, ironically, has led to a paralysis of Parliament proceedings.

The united Opposition wants either roll back of the FDI decision or an adjournment move (which is followed by voting) on the issue. The government is in no position to agree to either. It will be hopelessly outnumbered, with two key allies and others like BSP, SP, RJD and JD (S) opposing FDI on the floor of the House.

More and more states are joining the ‘oppose-FDI’ bandwagon.
The latest to do so is Odisha, a BJD-ruled government. Kerala is likely to join the group. Already, states such as West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab, besides the BJP-ruled states have opposed FDI in retail. However, it may be some relief for the Congress if BJP ruled states like-Gujarat and Karnataka among the leaders in getting FDI in other sectors.

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