FDI in retail: UPA Coordination panel in the offing?

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UPA cabinet members
New Delhi, Dec 7: With the suspension of the decision on FDI in retail creating a major embarrassment for the government, a formal Coordination Committee in the UPA could be in the offing.

This was indicated by a non-Congress UPA leader who said that consultations have already begun by the Congress with allies. At least there will be more consultations if not not a formal Coordination Committee, he said.

The leader, who declined to be identified, said that the decision of FDI in retail has virtually been withdrawn due to diverse pulls and pressures and it was unlikely to be retrieved by the government in the remainder of its term.

This, the leader said, was clear from the fact that the Chief Ministers have also been acknowledged as one of the stakeholders to reach a consensus and there are a dozen odd states which have opposed FDI in retail including West Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and the states ruled by the BJP.

UPA which has been in power since 2004 has no formal mechanism for consultations so far. Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress has been demanding a Coordination Committee while the NCP have time and again spoken of the need for more consultations.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Manish Tewari ducked questions whether a Coordination Committee for the UPA was in the offing. "It is a question above my pay grade", Tewari remarked.

Tewari also questioned the Left's projection of the decision on FDI in retail as "virtual rollback". "The pause to the decision is a demonstration of coalition sensibilities. We do not want to ram our world view on someone else".

A Congress leader, who wanted to remain anonymous, dismissed suggestions that it was a rollback. "It is not over. It will not be rolled out till the last six months of this government", he said.

"FDI in retail is a good idea and there is no ambiguity about it. Good economics does not make good politics", Tewari said in reply to a volley of questions on the issue.

Tewari's refrain was that in an era of coalition, "you have to walk the extra mile" as "enough consultations may not be enough".

Denying suggestions that it was a loss of face for the Prime Minister, he said that the reality of coalition politics was that "extra consultations" are required to take your allies on board.

He disagreed with a questioner that there was a grave error of judgement in bringing forward the FDI issue.

Following the "pause" to the FDI in retail issue, the talk in UPA circles is that the Congress will have to hold talks on every major issue with the allies.

A non-Congress UPA leader said that government bought peace with the opposition on the FDI issue by the "pause" button as a confrontation in Parliament on the matter could have led to fresh elections.

Congress leaders however dismissed suggestions that the possibility of mid-term polls forced its hand. "We took a hit on the chin to avoid getting bruised. A temporary wound to us was better than permanent strain in relationship with our allies", this was how a Congress leader put it.

PTI

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