New Delhi: In the face of stiff opposition in Parliament to FDI in retail, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Monday sought to reach out to MPs and state Chief Ministers and appealed to them to rise above "petty" partisanship on the issue.
    
"I felt it is my duty to dispel some apprehensions expressed by certain political parties," he said in his letter to members of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
    
The letter was sent to senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, CPI(M) Member of Parliament Sitaram Yechuri, RJD Party chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Odisha Chief Minister Navin Patnaik, among others.
    
The parties should rise above "petty" partisanship and strengthen Indian political systems, he said, adding that wide consultations were held before the decision was taken.
    
The government has come under attack on allowing 51 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the multi-brand retail sector dominated by small-size kirana stores to attract global giants like Walmart to open stores in India.
    
Both the Opposition and UPA allies Trinamool Congress and DMK have demanded a roll-back of the decision, which was taken by the Union Cabinet on November 24.
    
Sharma said, "In formulating this policy, we were conscious of the livelihood concerns of millions of small retailers."
    
Studies on the global experience with foreign investment in multi-brand retail revealed that even in developing countries such as China, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, local retailers have found innovative ways to co-exist with organised retail chains.

Sharma said the government was also mindful of ensuring food security for the poorest of the poor, retaining the first right to procurement of foodgrains. The first right would rest with the government public distribution system, he said.
    
On concerns over the predatory pricing that may be resorted to by multi-national retailers, he said the Competition Commission would ensure that such practices are scrutinised.
    
"I have specially discussed the matter with the Chairman of the Competition Commission to bring in a regulator... to ensure necessary checks and balances," he said.

FDI decision to distract House: NDA


Meanwhile, BJP-led NDA on Monday accused the government of allowing FDI in retail with an aim of distracting and disrupting Parliament which was set to discuss crucial issues of price rise and blackmoney.
   
NDA Convenor and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav and BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said the question of allowing Parliament to function does not arise till government withdraws the decision on FDI.
   
They also charged that Commerce Minister Anand Sharma did not discuss the FDI issue with the opposition before going ahead with the plan.
   
"Anand Sharma has written to all that he has talked to the stakeholders before taking this decision. Who are these stakeholders. Government should have talked to the political parties," Yadav told reporters outside Parliament House.
    
He alleged that if this policy is accepted, then traders will be adversely affected. It will also lead to escalation in unemployment problem in the country.
    
Asked if the opposition will allow Parliament to function if the FDI decision remains in place, Yadav shot back, "The question does not arise."
   
"This is under a government plan not to allow Parliament to function. They have allowed FDI at a juncture when the Parliament was to discuss price rise and black money," Yadav said, adding that the decision was hurried through even though some of the Cabinet ministers were opposed to the proposal.
      
NDA demanded that the FDI decision be withdrawn immediately.
   
"The entire opposition, other than Shiromani Akali Dal, is demanding that FDI policy should be withdrawn," Yadav said.
   
Hussain charged that due to the government bringing up the FDI issue, the price rise and black money issues have been pushed back.

Agencies