The government and the Opposition hardened their stance on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the multi-brand retail sector, as Parliament remained disrupted for the third day on Tuesday. As things stand, the forecast for Wednesday is no different with the assertion by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that it was a ‘considered decision' and the Opposition using it as an excuse for stalling business.
A meeting convened by Leader of the House and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to reach out to the Opposition on the issue, 90 minutes before Parliament began its session, proved nothing more than a ritual.
The entire Opposition voiced its strong opposition to the FDI in multi-brand retail and conveyed in categorical terms that the government should either roll back the move or agree to an adjournment motion which entails voting.
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) allies — the Mamata Banjerjee-led Trinamool Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam — endorsed the Opposition demand for withdrawal of the Cabinet decision.
Mr. Mukheree listened to the party leaders and promised to get back to them after consultations with the Prime Minister and other party leaders. Within hours, Dr. Singh, speaking at the high-profile Youth Congress convention, left no one in doubt that the government would not budge under Opposition pressure.
Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, at a news conference, argued that since some of the allies of the UPA were opposed to the FDI, the government must obtain the ‘sense of the House.' She contended that if the government was sure of its numbers, it should agree to the adjournment motion.
The Opposition sought to know from Mr. Mukherjee the ‘compelling reasons' which prompted the government to give the green signal to the FDI at a juncture when Parliament was disrupted over several contentious issues. There was no response from the UPA troubleshooter.
Originally Mr. Mukherjee's meeting with the floor leaders was slated for Tuesday evening but advanced to the morning after the Opposition wanted it held on Monday.
After Tuesday's meeting, Mr. Mukherjee was told that Parliament could resume after 2 p.m. if he got back to the Opposition with a decision.
However, he reasoned that it was too short a time. With Parliament adjourned for the day, the entire top brass of the Congress flocked to the Youth Congress convention.