Writes to Manmohan not to proceed with the move without a ‘wide-ranging consensus’

Ahead of Parliament’s monsoon session, a united Opposition seems all set to jeopardise Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s controversial plan to push foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.

While the Left and the Samajwadi Party have written to Dr. Singh to build a “wide-ranging consensus” before proceeding on the issue, key constituents of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal (United), are also in touch with the Left and other Opposition parties to formulate a joint strategy against the move.

“We urge the government not to open up the retail trade to FDI any further. Political parties across the spectrum are opposed to this move. In the absence of a wide-ranging consensus, we request you not to proceed with this decision,” says the letter to the Prime Minister signed by Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, and general secretaries of CPI (M), CPI, AIFB, RSP and JD(S) — Prakash Karat, S. Sudhakar Reddy, Debabrata Biswas, Abani Roy, and Danish Ali.

The letter further says: “The Indian retail sector is the second largest employer in the country after agriculture. It employs over 4 crore persons. Most of these are small unorganised or self-employed retailers. Entry of MNC supermarket and hypermarket chains would cause severe displacement of these small and unorganised shopkeepers and traders…In a situation when employment growth has slowed down according to the National Sample Survey data of 2009-10, the entry of foreign supermarkets would further aggravate the employment situation.”

Stating that any move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail would be “strongly resisted,” Mr. Karat told The Hindu that last time when the proposal came the government had promised that the Opposition would be consulted and consensus reached before going ahead on the issue.

“Several State governments and most political parties were opposing it…they share the view that the government should not proceed before it takes Opposition parties into confidence,” he said.

Mr. Karat said they were in touch with the NDA parties which also oppose this move. “We have talked to JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav whose party is against it. We are also in touch with several other parties who are with us. How the Opposition would fight against it would become clear only before Parliament session…we will strongly resist this,” he asserted.

Notably, apart from the Samajwadi Party that supports the UPA government from outside, the ruling coalition’s key constituent — Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress — is also against FDI in multi-brand retail.

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