New Delhi: With Government being cornered over various issues, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday briefed party MPs about the rationale behind allowing FDI in retail as also steps being taken to address inflation and blackmoney so that they could counter to opposition attack.

Mukherjee, who was deputed to apprise the party MPs about the government's actions and positions on the controversial issues, briefed them for about one hour amidst increasing attack by the Opposition.
   
He told the Congress Parliamentary Party that the move to allow 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail and 100 percent in single brand will help check inflation by bridging the gap between farm-gate and consumer prices, sources said.
   
Mukherjee insisted that the move will help bring down prices and will be beneficial for both the consumer and the producer.
   
Commerce Minister Anand Sharma will give a detailed briefing on FDI to the party MPs on Thursday.    

The briefing on FDI assumes significance as voices of opposition to the government decision have emanated from within Congress too, with at least two party MPs airing their views publicly.
   
Another party MP Praveen Singh Aron shot off a letter to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma asking the government to adopt a cautious approach on the controversial matter and asking for safeguards for domestic producers.
   
Parliament was on Wednesday adjourned for the fourth consecutive day on the FDI issue with the Opposition insisting on rollback of the Cabinet decision or discussion under Adjournment Motion.

Congress Core Group meets on FDI

Grappling with the logjam in Parliament over the decision on FDI in retail, the Congress Core Group on Wednesday discussed the issue but could not take any decision.
       
"No decision," an informed source said after the hour-long meeting that took place at the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which was also attended by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
        
Senior ministers Pranab Mukherjee, A K Antony, P Chidambaram and Congress General Secretary Ahmed Patel also attended the meeting.
        
Commerce Minister Anand Sharma was also called in to explain the decision on allowing 51 percent in FDI in retail over which allies Trinamool Congress and DMK have strong objections while the entire opposition barring Akali Dal is opposed to it.
         
The meeting is understood to have discussed various options including accepting a debate through an adjournment on the FDI which could end with a voting.  In that case, the efforts should be made to persuade the protesting allies to oppose the adjournment motion which would also be suitably toned down in its criticism of the government.
          
As of now, the government is sticking to its stand that FDI decision was not taken in haste and would benefit various sections including farmers and consumers alike apart from several other benefits.
         
Both Houses of Parliament lay paralysed for the seventh successive day without transaction of any business.

Fissures in Congress' Kerala unit over FDI

Meanwhile, a war of words has erupted in Congress in Kerala over the issue of allowing FDI in retail with a senior MP on Wednesday attacking PCC Chief Ramesh Chennithala for opposing the Centre's decision while another lawmaker from the state has come out in his support.
       
"I am in favour of FDI. If anybody is having a personal opinion (against FDI), it is his personal opinion," Thrissur MP P C Chacko told reporters outside Parliament House.
    
Reacting to a question on Chennithala's letter to Prime Minister opposing FDI in retail, Chacko claimed the matter was not discussed in any party forum in the state.
       
"It (Chennithala's view) was not discussed in any party forum and the party can go only by the decision taken by the government. Government has taken a decision. Cabinet has taken a decision and the Congress party will go by that and there are no two opinions on this issue in the party," Chacko said.
       
However, Kannur MP K Sudhakaran came out in strong support of Chennithala saying the KPCC chief took the decision knowing the "pulse of thousands of retail mechants and party workers" in the state.
       
 "People of Kerala cannot agree with the Centre's decision on FDI. The party cannot agree with it. It will erode our support base because majority of retail merchants are Congress supporters. The Congress in the state is firm behind the PCC chief on this issue. We won't allow the UDF government to implement it in the state," Sudhakaran said.
    
"The PCC Chief's was a well thought out decision after understanding the pulse of the people and party workers. We cannot push our supporters in a crisis. No true Congress worker from Kerala can question his decision on this issue," he said.
     
Sudhakaran alleged that the central government took the decision on FDI "in a hurry" without discussing it even with party leaders and MPs. Opposing government's move to allow FDI in retail, Chennithala has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him "to reconsider the issue". He said that global retail giants' entry in the sector will affect the livelihood of small merchants.
    
Reports had it that senior Central Minister A K Antony, who hails from Kerala, had expressed reservation over the move when the Cabinet discussed the issue last week.
    
Congress in Kerala fears main opposition CPI(M) will make political capital out of the Centre's decision by attempting to wean away small traders who are traditionally the support base of UDF.
   
Shops and commercial establishments across Kerala had remained closed on Tuesday as part of an agitation to protest against the central decision to allow 51 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail.

JPN/Agencies