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HindustanTimes Fri,25 Apr 2014

Congress to field star speakers in FDI debate

Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 04, 2012
First Published: 13:53 IST(4/12/2012) | Last Updated: 13:55 IST(4/12/2012)

For the big debate over the key policy issue of FDI in multi-brand retail in Parliament on Tuesday, the Congress will field a battery of star speakers that includes union HRD minister Kapil Sibal, information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari and its deputy chief whip in Lok Sabha Sandip Dikshit.

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Top Congress sources indicated that party general secretary and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi's participation in the
debate is still undecided but party will probably not field any speaker from Kerala — a state where local Congress leadership is opposed to entry of FDI in multi-brand retail.

The discussion on the FDI under rule 184 that entails voting will start from 2pm on Tuesday in Lok Sabha.

To defend the politically sensitive issue of FDI in Parliament that has not just faced the opposition
onslaught but also apprehension among the allies of the UPA, the party has carefully chosen its soldiers.

Kapil Sibal is likely to be the first speaker from the Congress in the debate that will be initiated by the Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj.

Sibal is not only a strong supporter of the reform measures but also a key legal brain of the UPA and he is expected to counter the opposition's arguments on the amendments to the FEMA regulations in the same breath while defending the FDI decision.

While Tewari — another legal expert of the Congress — is also seen as a seasoned orator, Dikshit is the son of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit who has a fierce supporter of FDI.

Dikshit had written to the centre seeking early approval of FDI in retail while many other chief ministers opposed the move.

As Kerala Congress leaders are wary about the entry of FDI in the state that also has a strong communist support base, the Congress leadership has decided not to field any speaker from Kerala.

The party wants to avoid any remote chance of political embarrassment on FDI in retail that has already generated a lot of political heat.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or finance minister P Chidambaram may intervene during the debate on Wednesday.

Even as the entire party is strongly backing the FDI decision of the government, there is no confirmation yet if Rahul Gandhi will speak on the issue in Parliament during the two-day long debate.

Some young turks, like Deepinder Hooda may participate in it.

The reply to the debate will be given by commerce minister Anand Sharma on Wednesday.

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