FDI issue gives Congress reality check on numbers

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 8 2011, 07:27am hrs
The government's decision to hold back the decision to allow 51% foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail till a consensus on the issue is evolved has again highlighted the fact that there appears to be no mechanism within the UPA coalition for matters to be discussed. Demands for a mechanism, a coordination committee have grown among UPA allies, even if the Congress is dragging its feet over it.

A couple of months ago, this demand was first raised by the Trinamool Congress when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled to Dhaka ostensibly to ink the Teesta Water Treaty and couldnt do so because of objections from the Trinamool Congress.

It was a major embarrassment for the prime minister and after a pacified Trinamool Congress met with him, senior leader Sudeip Bandopadhyaya said that a mechanism should be evolved.

In the second term of the UPA, we have fewer allies and it was felt that there was no need for a mechanism of this sort. We have been discussing matters. And its not as if FDI in retail was not discussed before hand, said agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

But the second big embarrassment for the government on FDI in retail seems to have given fresh life to this demand. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari deftly avoided commenting on the matter by saying that it was above

his pay bracket to comment on it, but senior allies have said that some communication mechanism has to be evolved.

If nothing else, then to at least decide the timing of important issues. FDI in retail was announced just as the Winter Session got off. People had already taken positions on the matter ... it is always difficult to stand back from extreme positions. The Congress should have been sensitive to that, said a senior minister from one of the allied parties.

It is time the Congress forget about the fact that they have 207 MPs and instead remember that the majority figure is still far away, said the leader.