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'Govt can't act if its every policy is voted over in Parliament'

Last updated on: December 3, 2011 02:33 IST

'There may be differences, but that's how coalition governments function'

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Information and Broadcasting minister Ambika Soni is a veteran Congress leader who has mellowed with time. A member of the Group of Ministers on media, Soni spoke to rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt briefly on the current logjam in Parliament over the government's decision allowing 51 per cent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail trade.

 

Your allies are sulking. They are in same bracket with the Opposition parties who are pushing the adjournment motion against the decision on FDI in retail.

 

Our allies do not have anything to do with the adjournment motion. They may have differences in perception over FDI. But for that our talks are going on with alliance partners. That is the normal way of functioning in the coalition government!

 

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Image: Information and Broadcasting minister Ambika Soni

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'Govt can't act if its every policy is voted over in Parliament'

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On Friday, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that she does not support FDI in retail...

 

I am just saying that the talks are going on. On Saturday, we will further discuss the area of differences. We have three to four days to discuss. I am still being optimist. The government will look at where the areas of differences are. I don't know what will be done about it. The decision of the FDI in retail is yet to be notified. We all are together in UPA.

 

Why are you not ready for a debate in Parliament with the provision of voting over the issue?

 

No! Listen to me. This is an Executive decision. This is the policy well within the right and prerogative of the Executive. If every policy of the government -- whichever government of whichever party -- is debated and voted over in Parliament then the government can't act.

If I take any decision in my ministry then I can discuss it, I can hear the opinion of others but every decision can't go to Parliament. Even if it goes we can have a half an hour discussion, we can have call attention, you can have a full debate. But why do you want debate and vote on the issue which is certainly is the prerogative of the Executive? It is a bad way of going about it.

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'The government is within its right to say that let us have a discussion'

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Has your government's political assessment proven wrong in judging your coalition partners?

In a coalition government we can arrive at decisions only after talking to our partners. In the case of FDI, I know discussions have been going on since the last two years. In two years, even the state governments have changed.

Also, you should note that the FDI issue is not obligatory on state government to implement. The state government can even form their own FDI policy.

Many governments have done separate arrangement to get the FDI. I don't understand how can you vote in Parliament with the view to censure the policy of the government, which is the prerogative of Executive? If you do it once, you will do it every time.

The government is within its right to say that let us have a discussion. You give your ideas and we will get the sense of the House. I can't say whether the government will adopt the suggestion or not.

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'Do not see ghosts where there are none!'

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There are many Congressmen who have spoken against the FDI. Are the party and the government on the same page on the FDI issue?

This has been explained in media before. Ours is the large democratic party. People do have their opinion, they express it. But once a final decision is taken by the leadership we fall in line because that's the discipline Congress party has.

In UPA-I, the opposition parties asked how could the UPA chairperson and the prime minister get along so well for five years? You saw they remained together. We got elected second time. Three years will be completed of second term too. Things are working fine because there is an ideological bonding between them.

So there is nothing to worry?

I am not saying yes or no. I am not saying there is nothing to worry. That is not my approach. Every opinion matters. The government keeps it in mind. Why do I discuss? Why do we give opinions? I think somewhere someone will listen to our opinions. It is possible that my opinion may be overridden or may be ignored in decision-making. So be it! I will be with the opinion taken by the government and my party. Please do not see ghosts where there are none!

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