Another setback for UPA's plans to push through economic reforms

Even as senior Cabinet Ministers are bracing themselves to get West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee on board to push through FDI in multi-brand reforms and civil aviation, her party, the Trinamool Congress, forced the Union Cabinet on Thursday to defer finalisation of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2011, which provides for private sector and foreign investment in the pension sector.

For the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), this was yet another setback in its plans to push through long pending economic reforms in the pension, banking and insurance sectors.

Trinamool Congress MP and Railway Minister Mukul Roy had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday, government sources said, opposing the PFRDA Bill, stressing that more discussions were needed. Mr. Roy also said in his letter that the Trinamool was upset that it was not represented on the Parliamentary Standing Committee that had discussed and cleared the Bill — Trinamool MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay resigned from the Committee after he became MoS for Health, he pointed out, and so the party's view had not been considered.

Earlier at the Cabinet meeting, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, after reading out the first few items listed on the agenda, said that the PFRDA Bill had been dropped for discussion on Thursday. Evidently, the government decided that with the presidential polls still looming large, he who runs away lives to fight another day.

At the meeting, however, Mr. Roy — who had skipped a major meeting on Wednesday chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on pushing infrastructure projects — chose not to speak at all.

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