Under intense pressure from some of its own allies and the entire Opposition, the government on Wednesday announced suspension of its decision to allow Foreign Direct Investment in retail, and immediately thereafter Parliament was back to work, after nine days.
Normal functioning of Parliament had been stalled ever since the Cabinet decided to allow 51 per cent FDI in multibrand retail, with some UPA allies, primarily the Trinamool Congress and the DMK, and the entire Opposition, demanding a complete rollback. The impasse finally ended on Wednesday morning at an all-party meeting, where the government announced its intention to put the Cabinet decision on hold until after all stakeholders were consulted.
Soon after, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee made the announcement in the Lok Sabha. He explained that the stakeholders were political parties and Chief Ministers without whose involvement this decision “cannot be implemented.” “It can never be implemented without involving the States.”
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj welcomed the announcement. “The government has bowed to the wishes of the people. To bow before the will of the people is not defeat. It is strengthening of democracy.”
After the statement by the Leader of the House, Speaker Meira Kumar disallowed the adjournment motions moved by the BJP, the Left and the BSP. The BSP members were dissatisfied and staged a walkout.
The House then took up question hour for the first time since the winter session began on November 22.
In the Rajya Sabha, as soon as a similar statement on the government's intention was made by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley wanted a clarification on who the “stakeholders” would be. Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said the State governments and political parties should be included in the consultation process.
Mr. Sharma said the stakeholders would include States and political parties.
A BSP member said his party wanted a complete rollback of the FDI policy, and staged a walkout along with all MPs of his party.
Earlier, at the all-party meeting convened by Mr. Mukherjee the Opposition agreed to the government proposal of suspending the FDI in retail until “consensus” emerged. All the parties, including the TMC and the DMK, agreed to support the resolution and allow the House to function.