Opposition to target FDI in retail in parliament

New Delhi, Nov 14 (IANS) With the CPI-M joining in, the opposition Wednesday sent a strong message of its intention to target the government in the winter session of parliament over FDI in retail.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government expressed its confidence about meeting the challenge, but it was clear it faces an uphill task persuading its allies on the issue as some of them opposed the decision in the past. The DMK, the second-largest constituent in the ruling UPA with 18 members in the Lok Sabha, has been scrupulously silent on the FDI till now.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) has opposed FDI in multi-brand retail but has cited "political compulsions" to keep giving support to the UPA government.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has spoken of the possibility of backing FDI in the future if it benefits farmers and consumers.

Both the SP and BSP provide crucial outside support to the UPA government, whose tally fell below the half-way mark in September after the Trinamool Congress pulled out from the alliance. The Trinamool Congress, like the BJP and the Left, is firmly opposed to the FDI in retail.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury told reporters Wednesday that party members have served notices in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha seeking discussion on the FDI under rules that entail voting.

"We wish to take it up for a proper discussion under rules that entail voting," Yechury said.

He said the government should consider taking parliament's approval for the FDI and "not go behind cover".

The winter session of parliament begins Nov 22.

Yechury hoped other parties would join the CPI-M in opposing the government's move. Party leader Basudeb Acharia told IANS Tuesday that opposing the FDI was his party's "top priority" in the winter session.

Acharia indicated that the Left parties also intended to raise the issues of price rise, controversy surrounding coal blocks allocation and alleged favours to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in land deals by the Haryana government.

BJP spokersperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the party will oppose FDI and coordinate with National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies and other opposition parties on the issue.

"We will totally oppose foreign direct investment (FDI) in the upcoming parliament session. The strategy for opposition will also be discussed within the NDA and also with other parties opposed to FDI," Prasad said.

He said the decision on the FDI in retail was not in the interest of the country and accused the government of violating its assurance to have consultations on the issue.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari expressed confidence of bracing the opposition challenge and said the Congress would "cross the bridge when it comes to it".

"The parliament session has not begun yet. The floor leaders of the various political parties are yet to meet. When push comes to shove, we will not be found wanting," he said.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the party was not afraid of any debate in parliament.

He said the party had made the FDI move in public interest and had sought to clarify any misgivings related to it. "But we don't want a debate with obstructions and ulterior motives," he said.

The government has been reaching out to its outside supporters including SP and BSP to face the opposition challenge in the month-long winter session.

DMK leaders have said their party would take a decision on the FDI in retail keeping in mind the interests of small and medium retail traders in Tamil Nadu.