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PM dials, but Mamata says a firm ‘no’ on FDI

Kolkata: In a virtual rebuff to the prime minister, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday categorically told Manmohan Singh that though she did not want his government to fall, supporting it on the issue of foreign equity in retail was a “problem” for her party.

“Today (Friday), the prime minister phoned me asking to reconsider our decision on FDI (foreign direct investment) issue. I told him that we do not intend the government to fall, but supporting it on the FDI issue was a problem for us,” Banerjee told mediapersons at Dankuni of Hooghly district.

“Fifty percent people of our state are dependent upon the retail sector. Even in our manifesto, we have committed not to support FDI in the state. We can think of such things only after ensuring a proper livelihood of our farmers,” she added.

Banerjee had earlier made clear that her government will not allow FDI in the state. She also said it was against her party policy to support the decision.

“We have also told them to reconsider the decision and withdraw it. If there is a financial crisis, then suggestions from all political parties may be sought to solve the problem. I have supported the government on earlier occasions but this is a very sensitive issue and I am committed to stand by the people,” Banerjee said.

“I respect the request of the prime minister, but it is our decision not to support it (on FDI). Though on his request I can at most discuss this with my party leaders,” reiterated Banerjee.

The Trinamool Congress, a key member in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), is bitterly opposed to the new reform policy and said this would hurt the interests of farmers and small traders in India.

The government’s efforts have so far failed to win the Trinamool’s support on the decision that is being fiercely opposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left parties.

The opposition parties are demanding an adjournment motion under a rule entailing voting to discuss the FDI in retailing. The government has so far rejected the demand, triggering a political deadlock in parliament.

The standoff between the government and the opposition has led to parliament not doing any significant business in the first nine days of the 21-day long winter session that ends Dec 22.

During his call, Manmohan Singh also wished a speedy recovery for Banerjee’s mother who is in hospital since the last week following illness, Banerjee said.

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