FDI decision put on hold: Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata: In a sudden turn of events, the Centre has decided to put on hold the controversial decision on FDI in retail sector, in an apparent bid to break the Parliament logjam. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose party Trinamool Congress is strongly opposed to the decision, made an announcement here that Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke to her and told her that the FDI decision has been "suspended".

"It is not temporary…until and unless consensus is evolved, the decision on FDI in retail is suspended. Pranabda sought our opinion on the issue and we told him that the Trinamool Congress remains firm. He informed me that the cabinet decision on FDI entry in retail will be suspended until and unless a consensus is evolved," Banerjee said. "If that is so, the issue is settled. The matter is crystal clear and you may ask Pranab Mukherjee," Mamata said.

Mukherjee, who is in the city today and visited the ailing mother of the Chief Minister at a local hospital, however, could not be contacted. She said that the Finance Minister tried to contact her several times. Later, he asked her how to thrash out a solution to the FDI issue.

"I too was preoccupied. But I talked to him over phone twice and during the short period, I consulted senior leaders of my party," she said. Banerjee said she spoke over telephone with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday when he had requested her to reconsider her party`s stand on the issue.

"I also assured him that Trinamool Congress does not want to topple the government. But at the same time, we are not in favour of FDI in the retail sector," she said, adding Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi had strongly opposed the decision at the cabinet meeting as well as Parliamentary Party chief Sudip Bandhopadyaya.

Banerjee said that a coalition governmen could not be run on the opinion of one party and a policy decision evolved when two opinions converged. "Trinamool Congress is always in favour of farmers, retailers and small traders," she said congratulating all political parties who opposed the decision.

Banerjee, however, strongly denied a report that her government was seeking a special package from the Centre on condition of her party`s support on the FDI issue. For the last one week, Parliament has been paralysed on the FDI issue with opposition parties demanding a roll-back. The Prime Minister has told the allies that it will be difficult to rollback the decision.