Parliament winter session starts on divisive note

Last Updated: Thu, Nov 22, 2012 07:58 hrs

New Delhi: Drumming up protest against foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi−brand retail, a belligerent opposition Thursday forced the adjournment of the Rajya Sabha till Friday and repeatedly disrupted the Lok Sabha, signalling an acrimonious beginning of parliament's winter session.

The Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha were adjourned first till 12 noon as the opposition, which is to press for a vote on the issue of FDI in retail, stalled proceedings. While the Lok Sabha saw repeated adjournments, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned till Friday.

The bitterly divisive talk on the issue continued in the Lok Sabha amid growing din from the opposition benches.

Minutes before the winter session began, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the government was willing to discuss all issues in parliament and sought the cooperation of all parties for the smooth functioning of the winter session. However, his appeal fell on deaf ears.

Expressing the hope that members of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha would "come together and address the issues and challenges that we face as a nation", Manmohan Singh said: "We are ready to discuss all issues on the floor of both houses."

Addressing reporters outside parliament ahead of the beginning of the winter session, he appealed for smooth functioning of parliament and said: "We all have an obligation, both in opposition as well as in the government, to work together to enable our parliamentary democracy, of which we are genuinely proud, to grapple with the formidable challenges faced by our country."

"Our country faces many problems on the economic front arising out of the consequences of global economic slow down. We need to create new jobs on a large scale to provide gainful employment to our youth," he said.

There was, he added, the need "to increase investments in infrastructure and social service like health and education to accelerate the tempo of social economic growth".

"Our government is committed to these thoughts for success requires cohesive collective action on the part of all segments of our politics. I invite all political parties to join hands in this vital national endeavour," he added.

The winter session ends Dec 20. With a shorter time−frame of 16 working days and a heavy agenda of 35 bills −− 25 listed for consideration and passing and 10 for introduction −− the government hopes it would be able to pass important bills, especially those related to economic reforms.

The opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left, plan to corner the government by pressing for a debate and a vote on allowing 51 percent foreign equity in multi−brand retail.

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