The government on Sunday questioned the rationale of the Opposition’s intent to force it to put to vote, in the coming Parliament session, its decision on opening up the multibrand retail sector to foreign investors.
Never in post-independent parliamentary history had an executive decision been put to vote, asserted Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, who is accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh.
Briefing journalists, Mr. Sharma responded to Opposition threats, ranging from pressing for a no-confidence motion to moving a motion against FDI in multi-brand retail.
While the Left has already given notice to move a motion in the Lok Sabha against the government decision under Rule 184, which entails voting, other parties are still debating the pros and cons of moving a motion which requires voting or a mere motion.
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has held out the threat of a no-confidence motion, but there are not many takers as the Opposition lacks the numbers to see it through. In fact, no party has yet responded to her announcement.
The UPA’s confidence is evident from Mr. Sharma’s declaration that the government is ready to face any challenge. “The government is confident of facing any challenge and will continue with the good work. The Prime Minister and [United Progressive Alliance Chairperson] Sonia Gandhi have demonstrated that this [FDI] policy is cast in stone.”
Mr. Sharma’s assertion would stand the Prime Minister in good stead over the next two days when he comes across leaders from the 10 countries comprising the Association of South East Asian Nations and dialogue partners such as the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Australia. In diplomatic circles in Delhi, doubts have been raised over the government’s resoluteness to push reforms that would help their corporates enhance their presence in India.
Mr. Sharma said the government could not be expected to allow vetting of policy and endorsement of executive decisions by “those with blinkers on.” In a democracy, there could be difference of opinion but the decision on allowing FDI in retail was a decision in the executive domain.
The Minister took a dig at the media when he was asked about the timing of the decision, pointing out that when the government took a policy decision, its legitimacy was questioned. But when decisions were delayed or trapped in controversy because of “sensationalism,” the overused cliché “policy paralysis” was used to criticise it.
“It is high time reality dawned on all of us that sensationalism in recent years caused enormous damage to India’s image and hurt the economy. There has been constant dialogue and so I am surprised by this talk about good and bad timing.
“The decision was taken after intensive consultations with stakeholders for over two years. The government has responded constantly to concerns and has left the decision [to implement or not to implement] to the States. Agrarian States which have been urging the importance of this initiative can’t be denied [the facility],” said Mr. Sharma.