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Left Parties to Oppose FDI in Retail in Parliament

The issue of FDI in retail is expected to generate a storm in the Winter Session of Parliament beginning next week, with the Left parties today announcing their decision to move motions entailing voting to oppose the government's proposal.

At a time when BJP and several other parties have also opposed FDI in retail, the Left leaders said they have appealed to all parties to support the motions in both Houses of Parliament.

"Though a decision of this nature is the right of the Executive, but any major decision, affecting a vast number of people, must reflect the opinion of Parliament. If not, then it is violative of parliamentary democracy," senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said after a meeting of parliamentary leaders of CPI, CPI(M), RSP and Forward Bloc.

The government should "rise above technicalities and go by the sense of the House. It (FDI) is a decision vital for the people. While four crore people are directly employed in retail trade, about 20 crore or one-fifth of India's population are dependent on it. FDI in retail would displace such a vast number of people," he said.

The leaders of Left parties would move notices under Rule 184 in Lok Sabha and Rule 168 in Rajya Sabha, both rules entailing voting after a debate.

Yechury said the Left parties have appealed to all parties to support the motion against FDI in multi-brand retail, saying many parties had earlier joined the Left in protests over the issue, including taking part in the nationwide strike in September.

Referring to the continuous disruption of proceedings in the last session, Yechury said, "We do not want a repeat of that situation. We do not want a situation where there is a match-fixing between the Congress and the BJP."

CPI National Secretary D Raja said DMK had also "openly criticised" the government's move on FDI, with parties like AIADMK independently declaring a bandh and JD(U) also protesting it.

Asked whether there was any difference among Left parties over the motion entailing voting on FDI in retail, Raja said, "The stand of the CPI and the entire Left is the same -- to oppose it. We are also opposed to FDI in insurance sector."

The question came in the backdrop of CPI's Lok Sabha leader Gurudas Dasgupta expressing the view that the FDI issue could be debated even without the voting clause.

Noting that corruption would be a big issue in the upcoming session, Yechury said, "It cuts across both the major parties -- the Congress and the BJP."

Recalling the disruption of proceedings in the last session, he said the "slanging match" between the two parties could lead to disruption of proceedings without transacting any meaningful business of people's interest.

Asked whether Samajwadi Party would oppose FDI in retail after being wooed by UPA and even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Yechury said several parties like SP, BJD, TDP and JD(S) had "come with us earlier. It is the pressure of the people, the situation on the ground (on FDI) that led them to do so."

On whether they would also appeal to Trinamool Congress which was opposed to FDI in retail, Yechury said, "Our appeal is to all the parties. Let them take a decision. But this party has a unique character. They seldom do what they announce and seldom announce what they do."

The CPI(M) leader said other major issues to be raised by Left parties include price rise, food security, disinvestment in PSUs, agrarian crisis and farmer suicides on which they would demand structured discussion.

Yechury said the CAG reports on coal block allocation and Delhi airport should also be discussed in Parliament.

Besides Yechury and Raja, others who attended the meeting were Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M), Abani Roy (RSP) and Narahari Mahato (Forward Bloc).

Maintaining that CPI(M) leaders in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha have served notices under rules entailing voting opposing FDI in the multi-brand retail, Yechury expressed doubts whether the Winter Session would function smoothly and the motions against FDI and other issues taken up.

"The last session was washed out due to the 'match fixing' between Congress and BJP, with neither of them wanting a structured discussion on the allocation of coal blocks scam.

"Similarly, this session is bound to witness an intense mudslinging between BJP and the Congress given the exposure of various scams involving their leaders. It would be most unfortunate if this Winter Session also ends up as a disrupted one," Yechury said in an editorial in the forthcoming issue of CPI(M) organ 'People's Democracy'.

Asserting that the Left parties would push for a structured debate on this motion and other issues of public importance, he said, "Whether this will be permitted by both the BJP and the Congress is the big question.

"Given the fact that both would be eager not to allow their inner-party dirty linen to be washed in Parliament and, thus, be more exposed before the people, they may well go in for another round of 'match-fixing' in this session as well."

Quoting recent published surveys, Yechury said, "Nearly half of India's working class did not receive their customary bonuses ahead of the festive season.

"More than 60 per cent of our people reported spending less than in the previous years. On the other hand, confirming the widening hiatus between the two Indias, 20 per cent boasted of spending more this season."

While these were major issues of public importance that Parliament should discuss and hold the UPA-II government accountable, he said, "Unfortunately, it looks most unlikely that this will be permitted."

And if Parliament is disrupted again this time, "then it is bound to increase further the growing cynicism amongst people over the efficacy of our parliamentary democracy in delivering a better livelihood for our people," he said.

CPI(M), other Left and secular opposition party MPs would "try to ensure that the session functions and the government is forced to reverse its reform policies that are not in the interest of the country and the people," he said.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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