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Opposition insists on FDI rollback ahead of all-party meet

The government has called an all-party meeting Wednesday morning to end the logjam in parliament over allowing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail trade even as the opposition stuck to its demand for a rollback of the decision.

The proposed meeting comes amid indications from the government that it has decided to put the FDI decision on hold. The government is expected to make a statement on the issue in parliament Wednesday.

But ahead of the meeting, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) continued to insist on a rollback of the FDI decision. Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav said he was talking to various political parties in an effort to create consensus on smooth running of parliament after the all-party meeting.

BJP leader Rajnath Singh said the meeting of floor leaders of political parties will be held at 9.30 a.m. Wednesday before parliament meets following a four-day break.

The government has over the past three days reached out to its key ally Trinamool Congress and the opposition to signal its willingness to "pause" the FDI decision.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday spoke to BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj and CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury to convey the government's decision to put the FDI decision in abeyance and seek their cooperation in running parliament smoothly.

The opposition leaders suggested that the government call an all-party meeting to convey its viewpoint.

The BJP Tuesday sharpened its attack on the government with its leader Arun Jaitley questioning "silence" of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi on the FDI issue.

"The government decided to allow FDI in retail Nov 25. Till now, I did not get the opportunity to know the views of the party president (Sonia Gandhi), or general secretary (Rahul Gandhi), whom they consider leader of future," Jaitley said at a rally here.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said that the party wanted a rollback of the FDI decision.

"As of now. we want a rollback. Let's hear what they have to say (at the floor leaders' meeting)," Sitharaman told IANS.

Sushma Swaraj indicated Monday that her party would demand a rollback or else the government should agree to debate the FDI issue under adjournment motion entailing a vote.

The CPI-M also stuck to its stand for a rollback with party general secretary Prakash Karat demanding that the government decision permitting FDI in retail should be cancelled.

"The government intends to put FDI in retail on hold till the winter session of parliament. But we want its (FDI) cancellation and the rescinding of the decision," Karat said.

He alleged that the United Progressive Alliance-II (UPA) government had permitted the FDI in retail as it had given a commitment to the US.

Mukherjee Saturday informed Trinamool chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that the government would put the FDI decision on hold, pending consensus.

Sources said the Congress has issued a whip to its members in the Lok Sabha requiring their presence in the house Wednesday and Thursday to keep open options for discussing the FDI issue under a rule that entails voting.

Sharad Yadav reflected growing concern of members over continued disruptions of parliament and favoured its smooth functioning. "My effort is that parliament should now function after days of disruption," said Yadav, convenor of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

He said parliament should run as several issues like price rise, black money and Lokpal bill needed to be discussed.

Nearly half of the winter session has been lost due to protests and slogan-shouting by opposition members over various issues, mainly FDI in retail.

The government decided Nov 25 to allow 51 percent foreign ownership of multi-brand retail stores and 100 percent FDI in single brand outlets.

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