FDI in retail put on hold till consensus

New Delhi: Bowing to intense pressure from within and outside, government today announced suspension of its decision to allow FDI in retail, bringing Parliament back to business after nine days of logjam. The breakthrough in the standoff came at an all-party meeting this morning where the government made the offer to put on hold the Cabinet decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail and the Opposition agreed to it.

Soon after, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee made an announcement in the Lok Sabha that the government has decided to put on hold the decision on FDI till all stakeholders were consulted. A similar statement was made in the Rajya Sabha by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma. "The decision to permit 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail is suspended till a consensus is developed among various stakeholders," Mukherjee said in the Lok Sabha.

He explained that the stakeholders were political parties and Chief Ministers without whose involvement this decision "cannot be implemented". Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj welcomed the announcement to put on hold the decision. "Government has bowed to the wishes of the people. To bow before the will of the people is not defeat," she said.

After the statement by the Leader of the House, Speaker Meira Kumar disallowed the adjournment motions moved by several opposition parties, including the BJP, the Left and BSP. But the BSP members were dissatisfied and staged a walkout. The House then took up the Question Hour for the first time since the Winter session began on November 22.

In the Rajya Sabha, Sharma made the statement on the suspension of the government decision on FDI in retail. A BSP member, however, expressed opposition to the suspension of FDI in multi-brand retail and staged a walkout saying that his party wants nothing but rollback of the decision. Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said the state governments should be included in the consultation process.

Earlier, at the all party meeting convened by Mukherjee the opposition agreed to the government proposal of suspending the FDI in retail decision till a "consensus" emerges after consultations with different stakeholders. All the parties, including UPA allies TMC and DMK, which were opposed to the decision, agreed to support the resolution and allow the House to function.

The BJP and the Left were demanding a complete rollback but agreed to the government proposal contending that trying to build a "consensus" virtually meant that the FDI decision has been put on the backburner indefinitely. "This is a virtual rollback of the FDI decision, so we will allow the House to function. We are more keen than the government that Parliament should function," CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta told reporters after the meeting.