UPA Govt. consulted all stakeholders on FDI: Anand Sharma

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 23, 2012 04:36 hrs

New Delhi: Ahead of the second day of the winter session of Parliament, which is expected to be as stormy as day one, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has emphatically reiterated that the UPA Government has honoured the consultation procedure with all stakeholders on retail reforms.

Addressing media here late last evening, Sharma said that he was surprised by the opposition's twisted logic of democracy.

Sharma described FDI an enabling policy introduced by the government, and added that it is not being imposed or forced upon the states of the union.

"We had said that we will be going for another round of consultation with the stake holders. We have honoured that. Both my ministry and the ministry of food and consumer affairs carried out intense consultation which involved all the state governments, chief ministers were written to me and as many as sixteen chief ministers have spoken to me and met by me personally," said Sharma.

Sharma also added retail opening has got the majority not only from the chief ministers of various states by also from other ministries.

For the moment, there is no threat of the government falling. But an obstructive opposition and unreliable allies could mean there is little progress on reforms like opening up insurance and pension businesses during parliament's month-long winter session.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh government has been criticised in the past for cold-shouldering allies and opponents.

Criticizing the BJP and the CPI-M, Sharma added that consensus does not mean endorsement to political parties headed by Nitin Gadkari or Prakash Karat, but to other stakeholders a well.

"We realised, recognizing that there is a strong consensus in favour, all the major farmers unions of the country except the party affiliated cells of the farmers of BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and CPM {Communist Party of India (Marxist)} have supported the policy. The small, micro and medium enterprises have supported the policy, overwhelming majority of consumer federation have supported the policy. 10 states of the union including large states, agrarian states, covering more than half of the territory of India having writing asked for it and after the decision was notified, they are implementing the policy," said Sharma.

Sharma also said the initiative has been taken in order to protect small traders of India.

The CPM is pushing hard for a symbolic vote against the measure. If the government loses the vote, it would be an embarrassing setback for a policy on which it has staked so much political capital. It could also sap its political will to pursue more difficult reforms to cut high spending and reduce a ballooning budget deficit.

Most of the initiatives Singh has announced to date have required only an executive order, so this session of parliament poses the biggest test yet of his reform drive. If he fails to get key allies and the BJP on board, his reformist legislative agenda could stall.

Among the reform bills due to be introduced are measures to allow up to 49 percent foreign investment in local insurance companies and domestic pension funds. Currently, the cap for insurers is at 26 percent and foreign investors are barred from buying into pensions.

The economic bills can be passed in parliament's lower house with the support of two big regional parties - the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) - which are not part of the ruling coalition but often give it support in parliament. However, the SP has previously opposed the pension and insurance bills while the BSP is keeping its cards close to its chest. 

More from Sify: