Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday confirmed to a section of the Opposition that the Union government had decided to put on hold the move to allow foreign equity in the multi-brand retail sector, pending further consultations.
The issue has stalled Parliament since November 25. However, it is not immediately clear whether this is enough to break the deadlock.
On Monday, Mr. Mukherjee called up BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj and CPI(M) Rajya Sabha leader Sitaram Yechury and sounded them out on the government's latest thinking. They reportedly suggested that he hold an all-party meeting to make a formal announcement.
The Opposition is yet to take a view; some of them feel that such an announcement should be good enough to let Parliament function.
Another view is that the Opposition should stick to its demand for rollback of the decision.
“If the government agrees to keep the decision in abeyance pending wider consultations, there is no reason for the Opposition to hold up Parliament. There are so many urgent and important subjects that need to be debated, and Parliament cannot be held to ransom over one issue,” a senior Opposition leader said.
According to informed sources, Mr. Mukherjee would chair a meeting of floor leaders on December 7 and seek their views.
At the last meeting he had with them, the floor leaders demanded that the government either roll back the decision or face an adjournment motion with voting in the Lok Sabha.
Within hours of the meeting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking at a Youth Congress rally, made it clear that the decision was a considered one.
But, at the same time, the government was not in a position to face an adjournment motion, given the strong opposition of the Trinamool Congress and the DMK, key allies of the ruling United Progressive Alliance.
The government's efforts at persuading these allies proved futile; in particular, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was in no mood to relent.
After talking to Mr. Mukherjee on Saturday, she made a surprise announcement that her party had secured a commitment from the government that it would not go ahead with the decision.