The United Progressive Alliance government appeared determined on Monday not to roll back its decision to permit foreign direct investment (FDI) in the multi-brand retail sector, despite intense pressure from allies and the Opposition alike, not to mention the Congress' Uttar Pradesh unit which faces an uphill task in next year's Assembly polls.

At best, sources said, the government might postpone a decision on its implementation by referring it to an empowered group of ministers.

At the end of an unproductive day, members of the all-important Congress Core Group gathered here for an emergency meeting to draw up a strategy ahead of a meeting Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will have with floor leaders on Tuesday. The consensus in the Core Group, which includes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, A.K. Antony and P. Chidamabaram and Ms. Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel, appeared to be to hold firm. There is a determination in the government not to look weak, so the most that may happen is another round of talks.

The party's managers battled to convince their detractors. Shortly after Parliament was adjourned for the second day on the issue, Dr. Singh met Ms. Gandhi. Then, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma shot off a letter to all major parties, stressing that the new policy would not jeopardise the livelihoods of farmers and traders.

“In the absence of adequate cold chain infrastructure, logistics and transport, our post-harvest losses remain unacceptably high...a complex chain of middlemen have a cascading impact on supply inefficiencies and prices as well,” Mr. Sharma wrote. As a result, farmers failed to get remunerative prices, while consumers were paying more than five times the price secured by farmers.

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