Unfazed, government moves ahead on FDI

Unfazed by the day-long Opposition-sponsored bandh, the UPA government on Thursday notified the guidelines for FDI in retail, civil aviation and broadcasting. Here, passengers search for taxi at Howrah bridge in Kolkata on Thursday. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish   | Photo Credit: Sushanta Patronobish

Unfazed by the day-long Opposition-sponsored bandh to protest against its economic decisions, and hours ahead of the Trinamool Congress’ imminent exit, a determined UPA government on Thursday notified the guidelines for FDI in retail, civil aviation and broadcasting, reinforcing the message it has been sending out for a week: it means business.

Sensing, however, that there is need for an authoritative explanation of the government’s actions, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to address the nation on Friday, official sources said, on why his administration was compelled to announce the economic decisions that saw its ally, the Trinamool, walk out of the UPA.

But the imminent loss of the Trinamool’s 19 MPs did not appear to ruffle the government. “We had enough friends yesterday, we have enough friends today. So, I don’t think you should doubt our stability,” Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told journalists here. Reinforcing this view, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni stressed, “We have the support of over 300 MPs who realise that these are difficult times and know that hard decisions need to be taken.” There are also indications that once the government puts the Trinamool episode behind it, the Prime Minister can proceed with the Cabinet reshuffle.

The mood at the Congress headquarters, on Thursday evening, was relaxed and mellow, with party functionaries similarly confident that the government was not under any threat. In sharp contrast, the BJP sounded sombre — and detached.

At a press conference, BJP president Nitin Gadkari was at pains to stress that the party had no intention of either moving a no-confidence motion against the Manmohan Singh government or doing anything to destabilise it, while parrying any comment on the Trinamool. “It’s not the Opposition’s job to make this government fall,” he said. “The government may fall because of its own deeds, in natural course. We’ll not be responsible for it. We don’t want to do anything to make this government fall.”

Meanwhile, Union Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar made an embarrassing revelation: he told PTI that at the UPA Coordination Committee’s first meeting, Dr. Singh had flagged FDI in retail, a hike in diesel price, and a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, he said, was present and promised the Prime Minister she would meet him later to give her views on the three issues. Mr. Pawar’s statement contradicts Ms. Banerjee’s complaint that she was kept in the dark by the Centre on these issues before it took the controversial decisions.

Priscilla Jebaraj adds:

Hike in FI cap for broadcasting services notified

The government has notified its decision to hike the foreign investment cap for modernising cable networks, Direct to Home (DTH) and mobile television service providers to 74 per cent. The move will allow global players to acquire majority stakes in all broadcast carriage companies. Earlier, DTH and multi-system cable operators were only eligible for 49-per-cent foreign investment.

As decided by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs last week, broadcast content companies, such as TV news channels and FM radio channels will continue to have a foreign investment cap of 26 per cent, keeping majority control in the hands of the Indian partner.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 4:52:45 PM |

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