The Congress and the CPI-M on Wednesday slammed the Narendra Modi governments move to divest its 49 per cent stake in Air India and allow 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in single-brand retail.Congress leader and former Union Minister Anand Sharma said the government should come clear on the Air India deal as to whether the national carrier's assets "worth lakhs of crores of rupees" and its route rights would also be transferred to the investor. Sharma said the UPA government had consciously kept Air India out of the purview of FDI though it had allowed 49 per cent FDI in the civil aviation sector."It is true that the national carrier has faced challenges, but so have other airlines. We have to examine the government's decision closely. Whether it also allows foreign carriers (to invest), which presumably is the case, then it raises some fundamental questions," Sharma said."Air India has assets worth lakhs and lakhs of crores (of rupees) in India and abroad. The government needs to inform the country what this policy will do. Don't want a situation where Air India is sold for a song and all bilateral route rights are gone with that," he added.The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) also strongly opposed the decision to allow "foreign airlines" to invest up to 49 per cent in Air India. "Having taken the decision to privatise Air India, the Modi government is now moving towards handing over Air India to a foreign airline.
"The government should heed the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, which has asked the government to review its decision on privatisation of Air India and give five years to revive the airline with its debts written off," the Left party said in a statement.On allowing 100 per cent FDI through the automatic route in single-brand retails, it said that the move reflected on the Modi government's intentions of "moving towards allowing FDI in multi-brand retail trade".However, Sharma termed it just as "a cosmetic change" and "minor tweak" that would not have any significant changes."I don't think its going to make much change, because almost all the major brands of the world are already here as 100 per cent FDI was already allowed. This is done perhaps for the Prime Minister to make a statement at Davos," Sharma said.Till now, FDI up to 49 per cent was permitted under the automatic route, while the government's permission was needed for FDI above that.Both Congress and CPI-M reminded the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that it had opposed as an opposition party the entry of foreign companies into retail trade and that it had now "hypocritically reversed its position".Modi will be travelling to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum Summit later this month.