Nation
End to logjam in Parliament over FDI in sight

In Lok Sabha, the UPA government appears to be comfortably placed in the numbers game with promise of support from SP and BSP and DMK's open backing

 
New Delhi: An end to the logjam in Parliament over foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail appeared in sight on Wednesday with the government giving enough hints that it has no problem over a vote on the issue, reports PTI.
 
In an effort to break the impasse, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, along with his deputy Rajiv Shukla, held a meeting with Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley.
 
"Presiding officers can take any decision they want in the interest of running Parliament," Nath said after the meeting.
 
Insisting that numbers were "not a worry" for the government, he said that the MPs are responsible enough to decide (in favour of the issue).
 
Replying to questions, he dismissed suggestions that the government has wasted four days of the Winter session to decide on the issue as it did not have the numbers.
 
"From day one I have said we have the numbers," he said to a question that the government was ready for a vote only after key ally DMK came on board.
 
Earlier, he also met the Lok Sabha Speaker and last evening the Rajya Sabha Chairperson.
 
The meeting with the Leaders of the Opposition saw BJP insisting on a discussion under a rule that entails voting alleging that the government had committed gross neglet of Parliament by not adhering to its commitment of consulting all stakeholders before taking a decision on FDI in multi-brand retail.
 
In such a situation, the only way the sense of the House could be gauged was through voting, Swaraj told reporters after the hour-long meeting.
 
Her contention was that even if such vote went against, it would not lead to the fall of the government but would only show the view of Parliament on the FDI issue.
 
"The government will not fall. Only FDI (decision) will have to go. If majority of members are against the decision then the government should abide by it," Swaraj said.
 
As against this, Nath argued that the all-party meeting held on Monday showed that larger numbers favoured a discussion without voting. The meeting also saw most of the parties wanting Parliament to run and "we want Parliament to run".
 
Nath said the government "cannot accept (discussion under Rule) 184. We have left it to the presiding officers to decide. Let them take any decision they want in the interest of running the House".
 
Asked if the government was ready for voting on FDI as the opposition is firm on its stand, Nath said, "We are not averse to it." 
 
To a query whether the government was setting a bad precedent by having a voting on an executive decision, the minister said, "There are many precedents. A House behaving like this was also not there. Rules are very clear. We are not worried. Government is confident of the steps... of our policies."
 
Besides BJP, the Left parties, BJD, AIADMK, TDP have been demanding that the discussion on FDI should be followed by voting.
 
While in Lok Sabha, the government appears to be comfortably placed in the numbers game with promise of support from SP and BSP and DMK's open backing. Trinamool Congress with 19 MPs has also been cold towards Opposition demands for a vote on the issue.
 
In the Lower House, at present the UPA enjoys the support of about 265 MPs in Lok Sabha 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.
 
However in Rajya Sabha, where the UPA coalition does not have the numbers on its own, it may have problems in case of a vote.
 
In a House with an effective strength of 244, the UPA and its allies have a strength of about 94 members. There are ten nominated members who may vote with the government. Among the seven Independents, three or four may go with the government.
 
Still the ruling coalition may have to persuade outside supporters BSP (15) and SP (9) to positively vote with the government to avoid any last-minutes hitches.
 

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Maldives decides to scrap GMR contract, India reacts sharply

The $500-million Male airport project, awarded to GMR Group was hanging in balance ever since the regime change in Maldives earlier this year

 
Male/New Delhi: In a sudden and unilateral action, Maldives on Tuesday decided to scrap the $500 million contract given to GMR Group for developing Male Airport, evoking a sharp reaction from India which said it sends a "very negative signal" to foreign investors, reports PTI.
 
The Maldives Cabinet in a meeting on Tuesday decided to terminate the contract, Maldivian President's Press Secretary Masood Imad told PTI from Male.
 
In a statement, the Maldivian government said the decision to terminate the Concession Agreement signed on 28 June 2010, between GMR-MAHB consortium, Maldives Airports Company Ltd and the government was based on a paper presented by the Attorney General's office prepared after a "thorough research done for the past nine months by a Cabinet Committee".
 
The paper is based on "technical, fiscal and economic issues" and also includes the legal advice of lawyers from the UK and Singapore regarding the agreement which was "legally invalid, and impossible to further continue".
 
The Attorney General's office will initiate arbitration proceedings against GMR Male International Airport Ltd (GMIAL), the Cabinet decided, the statement said.
 
The $500-million project was hanging in balance ever since the regime change in Maldives earlier this year. The GMR group had won the contract during the regime of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
 
Some coalition partners of the current regime headed by Mohamed Waheed had also held a rally against GMR on 3rd November.
 
The airport contract was awarded to GMR through a 10-month long global competitive bidding process run by the then Maldivian government headed by Nasheed.
 
In New Delhi, the External Affairs Ministry came out with a strong reaction saying the decision was taken without due consultations.
 
India also asked Maldives to ensure Indian interests and security of Indian nationals in the Indian Ocean island country are "fully protected". .
 
"The decision to terminate the contract with GMR without due consultation with the company or efforts at arbitration provided for under the agreement sends a very negative signal to foreign investors and the international community", MEA spokesperson said.
 
India, he said, expected that Maldives "would fulfil all legal processes and requirements in accordance with the relevant contracts and agreement it has concluded with GMR in this regard".
 
The government of India would continue to remain engaged with the government of Maldives on this issue, he added.
 
The GMR Group termed the Maldivian government's decision as "unilateral and completely irrational".
 
"In a unilateral and completely irrational move the Government of Maldives has today issued a notice to the GMR Male International Airport Ltd (GMIAL) intending to take over the possession and control of the Ibrahim Nassir International Airport (INIA) under the pretext that the agreement is void," it said in a statement.
 
"This unlawful and premature notice on the pretext that the Concession Agreement is void is completely devoid of any locus standi and is therefore being challenged by the company before the competent forums," it said.
 
The company said it disputes the contention that the Concession Agreement is void, and added that it has taken all measures to continue operations at the INIA.
 
"We are therefore taking all measures to ensure the safety of our employees and safeguard our assets. We are confident that the stand of the company will be vindicated in every way," the statement said.
 
Nearly eight months after the regime change in Maldives, some Indian companies present there, including GMR, are blaming political interference for creating "undue challenges" for them.
 

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