Did Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reach out to the UPA allies on the government’s latest reform moves?
Though on Wednesday Banerjee accused the Congress of spreading “misinformation, concocted stories and confusion”, it was clear that the reforms could not have been a bolt from the blue.
The matter was discussed at length during the last UPA coordination committee meeting on August 22. And along with other alliance leaders, the meeting was attended by Banerjee herself.
Senior Congress leaders point out that the meeting was planned primarily to explain the need for reforms to the allies and it was convened only after consulting Banerjee to ensure her attendance.
At the meeting — chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi — Singh spoke about the need to push reforms. Banerjee made it clear that she would not support FDI in multi-brand retail as her party’s manifesto opposed it.
She also sought a separate discussion on FDI—a request that was promptly accepted.
Banerjee was persuaded to stay back in Delhi the next day, when she had a series of meets, including an exclusive one with the PM and another with finance minister P Chidambaram.
At the meeting with Chidambaram in his North Block office, the minister reportedly told Banerjee that under the new policy, the states would have the discretionary power to decide on whether or not to allow foreign stores.
It was also explained that if Banerjee did not want foreign retail chains, she could stop them in Bengal.
But the meetings, apparently, failed to allay Banerjee’s concerns.
On Wednesday, reminding UPA that former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had assured that FDI in retail would not be implemented unless there is consensus, Banerjee said, “Even minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had questioned the justification of FDI in multi-brand retail. So what prompted the UPA to introduce it without discussing it with its allies? There is a laxman-rekha in alliance politics. We never crossed it.”
She also rebutted Chidambaram’s statement that the Prime Minister’s Office had been trying to speak to her over the past four days.