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Govt Gets Ready For 'Make Or Break' Winter Session

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With a tough Winter Session ahead as the Opposition gears up to launch an aggressive attack for allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, the government is reaching out to political parties to seek their support for passage of important economic bills.
 
Ruling out any possibility of mid-term polls and saying the government will last its full term of five years till 2014, finance minister P Chidambaram, telecom minister Kapil Sibal and I&B minister Manish Tewari, who were fielded before the media ahead of the Winter Session beginning November 22, said the government is ready to discuss any issue under any rule with the permission of the Chair.

"The Parliament session has a very heavy legislative agenda. We are reaching out to the various political parties to carry through these agenda in the four weeks that we have for the session", said Chidambaram.
 
Other than the retail FDI, the important economic agenda for the Winter Session of Parliament beginning on November 22 includes amendment to the Insurance Bill to raise FDI cap from 26 to 49 per cent, Banking Regulation Amendment Bill and Direct Taxes Code.
 
Further, the government is planning to announce the finalised amendments to the controversial rules on tax evasion for foreign investors in the next 7-10 days, Chidambaram said, without specifying the details of what will be announced.
 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram said, had already met supporting parties and would be meeting more allies.
 
"We sincerely hope that the forthcoming session will be a productive one and many bills will be passed...My suggestion is that not one issue should be blown out of proportion. There are many very important issues that concern the welfare of people and future of country", he added.

Noting that economy was "challenged", the minister said the government would be taking steps to revive growth, which slipped to nine-year low of 6.5 per cent in 2011-12. "... we are taking a number of steps to revive economic growth. Only this morning you have read that euro zone is formally in recession. We are nowhere near that situation," he added.
 
 When pointed out that the opposition was gearing up to target the government over FDI in multi-brand retail, Tewari said, "if they want to corner us, we have no objection. We are ready to discuss anything if the rules permit. But if Parliament is not allowed to function, it would not be good for Parliamentary democracy."

To a question about Trinamool Congress, a former ally of the UPA, threatening to move No-Confidence Motion, Sibal said, "it is the right of every political party to put any motion before the House. When the motion is brought before the House, we will face it."
 
The Left parties have tabled a motion that will seek a vote on FDI. The main opposition BJP, its ally
JD(U) as also Trinamool Congress, which parted ways with the UPA few months back on the issue, have also given notices.
 
Read: Left Parties To Oppose Retail FDI

To add to government's discomfiture, sulking ally DMK is also not disclosing its stand on how it would vote either on such motions or the No-Confidence Motion, likely to be moved by Trinamool Congress.

On 14 November, DMK chief M Karunanidhi said in Chennai that his party's stand on the FDI issue is a "suspense".
 
Seeking to downplay the FDI matter, Chidambaram said, "my suggestion is that not one issue should be blown out of proportion. There are many very important issues that concern the welfare of people and future of country."
 
Telecom minister Sibal said the government had clearly said that states which do not want to implement the decision were free not to do it. However, if some states want to implement FDI, other states should not object, he said.
 
When referred to speculation about early polls, Tewari said that ever since the UPA-II had come to power,  there had never been three months when there was no such talk.
 
"The government has been elected for five years. People have given mandate for five years. The government will last for five years," he said.
 
His assertion came against the backdrop of Samajwadi Party releasing its first list of candidates for Lok Sabha polls. At present, the government enjoys the support of about 265 MPs, including 18 of DMK, in the House of 545.
 
With the support of Samajwadi Party (22) and BSP (21), the backing for the ruling coalition goes a little over 300, which is comfortable over the required 273 majority mark in Lok Sabha.
 
BSP and SP together or individually have not shown signs of withdrawing support so far.

Looking Towards Future
Chidambaram said he would endeavour to present a "more balanced budget" for 2013-14 and expressed the confidence that "growth will revive and (we will) move on to high growth track."
 
Replying to questions on fiscal deficit, the Minister exuded confidence that there was still time and the government would be able to meet the revised target of 5.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
 
"We still have good time of four-and-half months and therefore it is too early to say that we won't reach the target. And it is my intention to reach the target...I don't think we should spread pessimism or cynicism", the Minister said.
 
He said the disinvestment process will start soon and spectrum auction will continue. The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), he said, will meet shortly to take decisions on the pending
issues.
 
Concerns are being expressed about the ability of the government to meet the revised fiscal deficit target in view of the lukewarm response to the 2G spectrum auction which fetched only Rs 9,400 crore as against the target of Rs 40,000 crore.
 
As regards disinvestment, although the government plans to raise Rs 30,000 crore in the current fiscal through this route, none of the public sector undertakings have been able to hit the market so far.
 
 


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