Trinamool Congress protests outside parliament against retail reforms
Lawmakers of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) protested outside parliament on Monday against the government's decision to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and demanded the capping on cooking gas cylinders to be increased to 24.
TMC lawmakers sat at the entrance of the parliament, holding placards and banners urging the government to increase the cap on cooking gas and asked it to withdraw its decision on allowing foreign direct investment in retail.
"Our demand is 24 gas cylinders should be given on subsidy because Mamata Banerjee, our party leader has maintained her stance from the first day. Six of us even resigned from the federal cabinet. On this issue there is an all-party meeting in the parliament and we will raise this issue and of FDI in retail in that meeting," said Sudip Bandhopadhyaya, a TMC lawmaker.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is pushing hard for a symbolic vote against the measure. If the government lost the vote, it would be an embarrassing setback for a policy on which it has staked so much political capital. It could also sap its political will to pursue more difficult reforms to cut high spending and reduce a ballooning budget deficit.
Most of the initiatives Singh has announced to date have required only an executive order, so this session of parliament poses the biggest test yet of his reform drive. If he fails to get key allies and the BJP on board, his reformist legislative agenda could stall.
Among the reform bills due to be introduced are measures to allow up to 49 percent foreign investment in local insurance companies and domestic pension funds. Currently, the cap for insurers is at 26 percent and foreign investors are barred from buying into pensions.
The economic bills can be passed in parliament's lower house with the support of two big regional parties - the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) - which are not part of the ruling coalition but often give it support in parliament. However, the SP has previously opposed the pension and insurance bills while the BSP is keeping its cards close to its chest.