Faced with stiff criticism, both inside and outside Parliament, from the Opposition as well its own allies, the United Progressive Alliance government on Monday made an attempt to soothe ruffled feathers and reach out to the Opposition leaders and Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh on the contentious issue of allowing 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.

Seeking to dispel apprehensions and asking them to rise above “petty partisanship” on the issue, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, has written to Leaders of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, leaders of the DMK, Biju Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress, CPI and the CPI(M).

The Opposition and allies like the DMK and the Trinamool Congress have demanded a rollback of the decision.“I felt it is my duty to dispel some apprehensions expressed by certain political parties. The parties should rise above ‘petty partisanship' and strengthen Indian political systems. Wide consultations were held before the decision was taken,” he said in his letter.

“The policy has evolved after a process of intense stakeholder consultations, which commenced on July 6, 2010, when a discussion paper was floated by our Ministry. Comments from a wide cross section of stakeholders, including farmers' associations, industry bodies, consumer forums, academics, traders associations, international investors were analysed in depth before the matter was deliberated by the Committee of Secretaries on July 22, 2011 and Cabinet took a decision on November 24,” he said.

The letter has been sent to leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, Sitaram Yechury, D. Raja, Lalu Prasad, Chief Ministers Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa and Navin Patnaik, among others.

Mr. Sharma said studies on the global experience with foreign investment in multi-brand retail revealed that even in developing countries such as China, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, local retailers had found innovative ways to co-exist with organised retail chains.

The government was also mindful of ensuring food security for the poorest of the poor, retaining the first right to procurement of food grains. The first right would rest with the public distribution system, he said. On concerns over the predatory pricing that may be resorted to by multi-national retailers, he said the Competition Commission would ensure that such practices were scrutinised.

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