Thursday, December 08, 2011

Govt 'suspends' decision on FDI in retail, parliament back to work

BJP, Left show grace in victory, say no winners, no losers

New Delhi: Leader of Lok Sabha and Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee made a brief statement, which was agreed upon at an all-party meeting earlier on Wednesday morning, announcing the government's decision to 'suspend' the decision permitting foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, and it will be held back until 'consensus is developed through a consultation amongst various stakeholders.”

When BJP and the Left parties insisted that 'stakeholders' should be mentioned as well, Mukherjee told them that he would do it in the form of a clarification. Mukherjee said, “I am glad that all the Leaders have agreed to this formulation but they wanted to have some clarification. I am seeking your permission to provicde that clarification that stakeholders include the Chief Ministers of the state Governments and political parties because without the involvement of the State Chief Ministers, this can never be implemented.”

And he concluded saying, “With these words, most repsectfully, I would like to submit that the House may transact normal business as only ten days are left before the Winter session comes to an end. Thank you, Madam Speaker.”

Leader of Opposition and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said in response that government bowing to democratic pressure should not be seen as a defeat by the government, and she thanked Mukherjee and prime minister Manmohan Singh for their positive response.

After this thaw between government opposition, Speaker Meira Kumar referred to the adjurnent motions moved by several members including Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav and said since the issue was resolved she was withholding her consent to the adjournment motions.

After this, the Question Hour, which had been disrupted ever since the Winter Session began on November 22, was on, where civil aviation and overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi fielded questions on greenfield airports in Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.

DMK's T.R.Baalu wanted to know about the status of the greenfield airport at SiPerumbudur near Chennai. Ravi said that 1600 acres land has been acquired. Baalu said that Chennai international airport has become like a 'mofussil bus stand'. It was too crowded. Hence the need for a new airport.

BJP's Yashwant Sinha wanted to know whether there was a prorposal for a greenfield airport in Jharkhand, and the minister said there was one proposal. Rasstriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Laloo Yadav said that the Loknyaka Jayaprakash Narayan international airport was too small and there could be no landings there after dark. Ravi said that the runway is being extended.

In the afternoon, replying to debate on the demand for supplementary grants for the finance mnistry, Mukherjee said that the Lok Sabha reminded the members that without the House giving the necessary approval the government will not be able to spend any money, and asked them to assert their right to scrutinise government's expenditure.

When the Question Hour was about to begin, Speaker warned some of the members not to show placards when they tried to do so.

Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi sat through the Question Hour and then cam back to the House in the afternoon to listen to Mukherjee's reply to the supplementary demands bill.

Briefing reporters, CPI-M leader in Rajya Sabha Sitaram Yechury said that the government's reponse was positive and that it could have done it earlier. He reminded that even in the last Winter Session the government had held out on forming a jopint parliamentary commitee (JPC) to probe the allocation of 2G spectrum issue, which it finally did. In this instance too, government yeilded had to yield ground, he said.

A Congress leader speaking on condition of anonymity said that the government could have pressed on with its decision and it would have prevailed as well because the allies would have had to fall in line when it came to the crunch. It did not do so because this would have created a bitter feeling with the allies with whom the Congress has to work for the remaining two-and-a-half years in office.

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