New Delhi, Dec 2 : In a clear message to allies and opponents, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today asked them not to stand in the way of states wanting to implement FDI in retail and said efforts are on to work out an acceptable motion to face a Parliamentary vote.
“You can exercise your authority within your territorial limit, but don't stand in the way of the others who want to implement it. Therefore, let there be an enabling provision and this is an enabling provision,” he said while speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Mukherjee's remarks assume significance in the context of a deadlock in Parliament on the FDI issue, with allies Trinamool Congress and DMK also voicing strong opposition to permitting foreign investment in multi-brand retail.
Narrow political gains, the minister regretted, were hampering early implementation of a policy framework even though it was being done in a calibrated and sensitive manner.
On whether the government would risk a vote in Parliament like the Indo-US Civil Nuclear deal, Mukherjee said, “We are discussing with the various political parties... Sometimes it appears that there is no meeting ground. But if we can find out an agreed text on which discussions can take place on the floor of the House amongst political parties, then perhaps we can resolve this issue.”
However, he also added, “... But I am not quite confident and cannot say that we will be able to do it, but process is on.”
Mukherjee further said that state governments which are in favour of allowing FDI in multi-brand retail should have the option to do so.
“All the facilities which are required on the ground to be implemented (for FDI in retail) are to be provided by the state governments and we are telling them please go between the lines and (states) will find (that they) have the authority,” the minister said.
“Despite the recognition, often narrow political gains take precedence on an early implementation of the policy framework even when it is being done in a calibrated and sensitive manner,” he said.
Asking political parties to rise above narrow political interests, he warned, “In the absence of timely action or no action at all, it is the farmers and consumers who (would) suffer and the nation would miss out an opportunity.”
On the political impasse following stiff opposition from different quarters, Mukherjee said, “We are having discussions... Even being the leader of the House, I cannot make my voice heard... Essentially, one is to keep in mind that this can be done by the states because they have the authority to issue the trade licence as per the law and they have the authority to provide land, other facilities.”
“I do hope ultimately we will be able to persuade those who are still hesitant,” he added.
The global experience, he said, shows that organised retail with well-integrated supply and cold chains can significantly cut down post-harvest wastage while providing better returns to farmers and more competitive prices to consumers.
FDI, he added, would also help promote investment in technology in rural areas.
Moreover, he added, permitting FDI in retail required an executive decision, which the government had taken.“It does not require the approval of Parliament. But when it comes for discussion in Parliament, obviously it will require the approval,” he added.