Despite the clamour across party lines for a rollback of FDI in multi-brand retail, the Centre doesn't seem to be on the edge. And this is making it stick to its guns, not giving indications of an imminent rollback.
"As far as I know, we are not rolling back any of these decisions," finance minister P Chidambaram said. He expressed confidence that allies in the government and outside wouldn't withdraw support.
The opposition from the NDA, the Left, UPA-ally Trinamool Congress, the SP and the BSP marks a fierce verbal attack without evidence of intent to pull the rug under the UPA government's feet. This may help the calculations of these parties: They can say they didn't try to topple the government if the reforms succeed, and can claim that they foresaw what was coming in case the reforms fail.The sharp rhetoric has not led to a united non-Congress front, partly because most non-NDA parties don't want to be seen with the BJP for fear of losing minority support.
Asked why the Left and the SP were holding parallel protests on September 20 coinciding with the NDA's Bharat Bandh and not sharing the platform, BJP's Prakash Javadekar said, "Every party is a separate party but they are protesting on the same day."
Yet another reason for limited opposition is the doubt among parties whether serious opposition would actually be politically useful.
The UPA has enough numbers to withstand a pullout or two, and regional parties that have state governments and want more central packages wouldn't want to pull out at the risk of burning bridges even as the government stays.
There is little doubt that many parties think this is not an issue that's emotive enough to help them score points by pulling the rug. Verbal opposition may, however, work by embarrassing the government and turning small traders against the Congress. With economic liberalisation in place for two decades now, few think that trying to topple the government is a politically winning mantra.