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India’s Singh Defeats Bid to Topple Government on Retail

November 22, 2012

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said before parliament resumed the country was facing “formidable” challenges and all parties needed to work together to overcome them. Photographer: Pankaj Nangia/Bloomberg

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh survived a bid to oust his government over its decision to allow foreign companies to open supermarkets in the country.

After protests and adjournments in both houses of the legislature, the Trinamool Congress party, a former ally, failed to win enough support among lawmakers to bring a no-confidence vote in Singh’s minority administration.

The party’s chief, Mamata Banerjee, says the retail proposals -- announced in September as part of a policy push to stoke a slowing economy -- will put small shopkeepers out of work and drive down prices paid to farmers. Losing a confidence vote can lead to the dissolution of parliament and elections.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which refrained from backing Trinamool, has called for a debate on the retail policy, followed by voting under a different parliamentary rule. The supermarket plan doesn’t need lawmakers’ assent.

After the last parliamentary session was largely washed out by rival parties’ protests over corruption, the failure of opposition groups to unite around a no-confidence motion is a rare boost for the government. The ruling Congress party-led administration is looking to pass a series of laws aimed at turning around slumping support and an economy that is growing close to the slowest pace in three years in a the monthlong winter session of parliament starting today.

Singh said before parliament resumed the country was facing “formidable” challenges and all parties needed to work together to overcome them. Action was required to revive growth and create employment, he said.

“I invite all political parties to join hands in this rightful endeavor,” Singh said

Congress needs to win support from parties outside of its bloc to push through steps enabling foreign companies to hold bigger stakes in insurance firms and invest in the pension sector.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew MacAskill in New Delhi at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at

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