New Delhi: Both houses of parliament were adjourned for the day Monday as a united opposition and some key allies of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) cornered the government on its decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail business.
The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned shortly within start of proceedings as opposing MPs were on their feet, shouting slogans and gathering near the presiding officers’ podiums.
No business has been conducted in either house since Nov 22, day one of the winter session, slated to discuss important bills, including the anti-graft Lokpal bill.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar is likely to call a meeting of opposition leaders later to end the logjam, triggered by various issues, including inflation, statehood for Telangana and now the FDI controversy.
The cabinet approved 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail and 100 percent in single brand retail.
In the Rajya Sabha, AIADMK’s V. Maitreyan moved an adjournment motion asking for a discussion on the FDI under a rule which entails voting. In the Lok Sabha, the motion was moved by BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi. The motion is supported by the Left parties.
“We want the issue to be discussed. We want voting on it. We believe the government will lose if voting takes place in the house,” Maitreyan told reporters outside parliament.
The government has agreed for a debate but without a vote.
The Congress said the opposition should discuss the issue in parliament instead of disrupting proceedings.
“The opposition should raise the issue in the house and discuss it,” Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said. Key allies Trinamool Congress and DMK also want a rollback of the FDI decision.
Expressing his party’s displeasure over not being consulted before the move, Trinamool leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said: “I don’t think any rollback involves the prestige of the government. The UPA should at least interact with its partners.”
Not insisting on a vote, Bandopadhyay told reporters: “We want a discussion.”
DMK has also demanded withdrawal of the FDI decision. DMK chief M. Karunanidhi said in a statement in Chennai that allowing FDI in retail was “dangerous”.
“It will affect lakhs of small traders as well as the poor and middle class consumers. The DMK has sounded a note of warning in parliament,” he said.
The Trinamool and the DMK each with 18 MPs are the second largest units of the UPA after the Congress that has 207 members in the lower house.
Buoyed by their supports, the opposition has found the added leverage it was looking for.
Convenor of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Sharad Yadav said: “This issue is not just confined to parliament, it concerns the whole nation.”
He said there would be no parliament business if the government did not withdraw the decision.
“The government’s decision on FDI will have political fallout. The sense in the country is against FDI,” said BJP leader in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley.
The BJP believes that allowing FDI in retail will adversely affect the services and manufacturing sectors of the Indian economy. The move would result in loss of jobs in the name of removing middlemen, it said.