Kolkata/New Delhi, Dec 3: Under relentless pressure from allies and Opposition, the Government today put on hold its controversial decision to allow FDI in retail in a bid to end the stalemate in Parliament.
The announcement surprisingly made by West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee after a telephonic talk with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who himself declined to speak on the subject saying any official word on this will be made only in Parliament.
Banerjee, whose party is strongly opposed to the decision, revealed that Mukherjee told her that the FDI decision has been “suspended”.
“It is not temporary...until and unless consensus is evolved, the issue (decision on FDI in retail) is suspended,” she told reporters in Kolkata.
“Pranabda sought our opinion on the issue and we told him that the Trinamool Congress remains firm. He informed me that the cabinet decision on FDI entry in retail will be suspended until and unless a consensus is evolved,” Banerjee said.
“If that is so, the issue is settled,” she said. “The matter is crystal clear and you may ask Pranab Mukherjee,” the chief minister added.
Mukherjee, who is in Kolkata today and visited the ailing mother of the Chief Minister at a local hospital, later said: “I cannot announce anything because Parliament is in session. Any government decision will be made in Parliament.”
“I talked to her twice, but officially I can't make any announcement as Parliament is in session,” he told reporters at his residence.
Along with Opposition, TC and DMK, which have 18 members each in Lok Sabha, have strongly opposed the FDI decision and demanded its rollback. The two allies, however, made it clear that they were not for toppling the government.
In Delhi, Opposition BJP and CPI, however, asked the government to clarify its stand on the issue by making a formal announcement. Parliament will reconvene on Wednesday after the long week-end recess.
The Congress reacted, saying it welcomed all meaningful steps to break the stalemate over FDI.
“In such a situation, a broad consensus is required among different stakeholders,” party General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said.
The last one week Parliament had been stalled by a united Opposition demanding rollback of the FDI decision and no business was transacted by the two houses.
Banerjee said that the Finance Minister tried to contact her several times. Later, he asked her how to thrash out a solution to the FDI issue.
“I too was preoccupied. But I talked to him over phone twice and during the short period, I consulted senior leaders of my party,” she said.
Banerjee said she spoke over telephone with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday when he had requested her to reconsider her party's stand on the issue.
“I also assured him that Trinamool Congress does not want to topple the government. But at the same time, we are not in favour of FDI in the retail sector,” she said, adding that Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi had strongly opposed the decision at the cabinet meeting as well as Parliamentary Party chief Sudip Bandhopadyaya.
Banerjee said that a coalition government could not be run on the opinion of one party and a policy decision evolved when two opinions converged.
“Trinamool Congress is always in favour of farmers, retailers and small traders,” she said congratulating all political parties who opposed the decision.
Banerjee, however, strongly denied a report that her government was seeking a special package from the Centre on condition of her party's support on the FDI issue.