The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bardhan & Advani to share protest platform

New Delhi, Feb. 16: The Left is collecting new allies in its fight against opening up retail trade to foreign capital.

CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan will, along with BJP leader L.K. Advani and Janata Dal (United) chief George Fernandes, address an association of traders here tomorrow, setting the stage for a traders’ bloc against FDI in retail.

The association had sent an invitation to CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, too, but he declined it.

“The association is likely to announce an agitation programme,” Bardhan said. He didn’t see anything wrong in sharing a platform with political adversaries like Advani and Fernandes on an issue like this.

The Federation of Traders Associations of Maharashtra had contacted CPM general secretary Prakash Karat and Bardhan last October and asked them to persuade the Centre to drop the FDI plan.

The cabinet okayed the proposal last month.

Backed by the BJP and the Left, the traders are gearing up for battle.

The BJP, which has traditionally stood with the traders, was initially tepid in its opposition to FDI in retail. The Left, on the other hand, had always looked at the traders as friends of the BJP.

But the traders sought the Left’s help after they felt the BJP was not interested enough in their cause.

“We don’t want to be branded Left or Right. But we no longer trust the BJP. It was the NDA government that mooted the proposal for FDI in retail. Now the BJP is opposing the policy for political reasons,” Mohan Gunani, federation president, had said in October.

The BJP, however, changed tack after the cabinet nod to the FDI plan, switching from muted opposition to audible attack.

Bardhan feels the Left should continue to network with the traders. “Why should we leave the field open to the BJP'”

He has suggested to the traders a national convention that would voice their opinion against the Centre’s move. Gunani believes the Left would be a reliable ally.

He said: “The MNCs dislodge local traders wherever they go. They come in by selling goods at a cheaper price than local traders. But after ousting the local players, they jack up the prices.”

The Left parties have served a notice in Parliament for a debate under rule 193 on FDI in retail.

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