No consensus at India all-party meeting over reforms

India parliament
Image caption The parliament has been deadlocked over economic reforms

An all-party meeting called by India's governing coalition has failed to break the deadlock in parliament over recent economic reforms opening the retail sector to foreign competition.

Parliament has been adjourned for the first three days of winter session without doing any business.

Opposition parties say allowing foreign supermarket chains will put small shops out of business and hurt the poor.

The government says the reforms are needed to revive the slowing economy.

Monday's all-party meeting, convened by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, was aimed at breaking the impasse.

"It was a good meeting. Many members said the house must run," Mr Nath told reporters after the two-hour-long meeting.

"I will appeal to the parties demanding a discussion under Rule 184 [which requires a vote] to reconsider their view, and I will discuss the sentiments expressed in the meeting with the presiding officers of the two houses," he added.

'No compromise'

However, India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and left-wing parties refused to budge from their demand that a debate on economic reforms must be held under Rule 184.

"BJP has decided very firmly and there will be no compromise," senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj was quoted by NDTV channel as saying.

"We want a discussion that ends with a vote in the Lok Sabha [lower house] under Rule 184, and under Rule 167 in the Rajya Sabha [upper house]. We will state our opinion only in parliament; it won't function until the government agrees on a vote," she said.

The BJP says former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, now India's president, assured parliament last year that the decision to allow foreign supermarket chains into the country would only be made after consensus was reached in parliament.

The winter session, which began on Thursday, is scheduled to enact 25 pieces of legislation and debate another 10 bills before closing on 20 December, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Under the government's proposal, global firms - such as Walmart and Tesco - will be able to buy up to a 51% stake in multi-brand retailers in India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says the reforms will "help strengthen our growth process and generate employment in these difficult times".

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