On eve of all-party meet, govt fails to woo DMK on retail FDI

Express news service Posted: Nov 25, 2012 at 2124 hrs
New Delhi, Chennai Ahead of Monday’s all-party meeting convened by the UPA government to break the deadlock over the Opposition’s demand for a discussion on FDI in multi-brand retail under rules that entail voting, the ruling dispensation’s attempt on Sunday to bring the DMK on board failed as the southern ally remained noncommittal.

Union Minister and AICC general secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu Ghulam Nabi Azad flew down to Chennai today and held discussions with DMK chief M Karunanidhi for about one-and-a-half hours over the party’s stand on FDI in multi-brand retail.

Emerging from the meeting, Azad conceded that the DMK had a “lot of reservations” against the move. Karunanidhi, he added, proposed another meeting of allies before the Centre finalises its decision on the issue.

At a recent meeting of UPA constituents, senior DMK leader T R Baalu had conveyed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that while the DMK stood with the government, it would not want to be seen as supporting the decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail and, therefore, the government should avoid any voting on this issue in Parliament.

The PM earlier had lunch and dinner meetings with BSP and SP leaders also but the two parties which support the UPA from outside were said to have remained ambivalent about their stand on this contentious issue.

The Prime Minister met senior BJP leaders last week over dinner to resolve the deadlock, but the Opposition party is not prepared to accept any discussion that does not entail voting.

Anxious about the state of economy as also the public perception about policy paralysis that marked UPA II regime, the government is eager to push through a host of legislative business in the current session of Parliament. Therefore, it is inclined to walk an extra mile to ensure smooth functioning of the two Houses.

While the government has maintained that it would not like to set any precedent of Parliament voting on an executive decision, it would like to keep its options open. If UPA constituents and allies agree to extend their support during voting regardless of their opposition to the policy, the government may consider making an exception and accept the Opposition’s demand.

The problem, however, is that neither the DMK nor the SP or BSP are willing to show their cards, and would like the government to put an end to the current deadlock without forcing them to make a choice.

While the government is confident of the numbers — given its assessment that none of its constituents or allies would vote against it and also the fact that Opposition benches are not totally united on the issue of discussions entailing voting only — it would not like to see UPA partners abstaining in case of voting.

While the DMK had already expressed its staunch opposition to the move, it is as yet unclear whether it would vote against the Centre or would adopt a more calibrated approach of abstaining from voting, thus putting the onus on allowing retail FDI in Tamil Nadu on the state government.

The Centre, added Azad today, would not pressure any state government to implement retail FDI if the Bill is adopted.

The ruling AIADMK government has expressed its opposition in unambiguous terms, with Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa vowing to vote against it in Parliament.