8.40pm: Sonia Gandhi not worried about the Rajya Sabha
Having defeated the Opposition’s motion to trash the decision to introduce 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail in the House, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi seemed visibly happy. “I am happy with the outcome and I am not worried about the proceedings on FDI in Rajya Sabha,” she said.
Oil Minister Veerappa Moily, however, voiced his discontent over the CBI allegations. “How can make such arbitrary allegations against the government? They are against the Parliament. The Left and the TMC joined hands with the communal forces,” he shot back at the Opposition.
8.30pm: The UPA is a minority government, says Mamata
Pointing at the numbers at the allies walking out of the voting procedure Mamata Banerjee today said that the UPA was a minority government. “This Government has lost its credibility. They must take fresh verdict from the people,” she said.
Prior to her statement, posted on Facebook, Trinamool MP Sudip Bandopadhyay had told the media that TMC was a party which took up issues seriously, as opposed to other parties – the dig was obviously aimed at the SP and the BSP. “Our numbers are very small to put up an effective Opposition. We just have 19 MPs only in Lok Sabha. But when we walked out of the government, we showed how strongly we oppose any anti-people measure. The UPA has lost on moral grounds,” said Bandopadhyay.
7.40pm: Request Mamata Banerjee to not to side with the BJP, says Congress
Congress minister Rajeev Shukla thanked all the parties who have supported the government. He also urged Mamata Banerjee to not join hands with the BJP.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, minced no words, when she hinted at the possibility the UPA’s use of CBI to intimidate its truant allies. “I think it should be renamed the Congress Bureau of Investigation. Some parties walked out under pressure, don’t know what kind of pressure it was. Hope that when farmers and traders lose their jobs people will remember that it happened because of the Congress and BSP,” she said.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad too reiterated the CBI angle by saying: “The CBI has won over the nation’s interests.”
Manmohan Singh, in his trademark style, mumbled into the mic. What could be made out of his statement was that he welcomed the win and that he believed the country stands to benefit from FDI in retail.
7.20pm: ‘Victory for those who oppose the politics of BJP’
Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath said after the vote: “It is not my victory. It is the victory of the people who oppose the politics of BJP.”
Sushma Swaraj on the other hand strongly criticised the SP and the BSP for opposing the FDI but not daring to upset the government by voting against them. “If they had voted along with us, the fates of 20 crore Indians would have been very different,” she said.
Salman Khurshid added that it was the ‘confidence of people in the government’ which has helped them win the vote. “The people who had walked out has indirectly helped us. But that doesn’t mean there was any conspiracy involved. This is how democracy works,” said Khurshid. He added that the government should not become overconfident and work in the best interest of the public.
6.47pm: This is the victory of reform, says Manish Tewari
Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said that the fact that the Opposition’s motion was negated points at the victory of reforms. Kapil Sibal also welcomed the win saying the Opposition should now fall in line and stop opposing a measure beneficial for the country.
SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, however, said that the interests of the small traders and farmers were ignored in course of the debate and the voting though he didn’t explain clearly why he had refrained from voting against the government.
6.47pm: The Opposition’s motion asking the government to withdraw its decision to allow 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail trad, is defeated
According to the voice votes, where the Speaker asks people to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in unison for or against the motion to discard the government’s FDI decision, the UPA seems to have defeated the Opposition. The Speaker says that the “No-s’ outnumber the ‘Yes-s’. Or like they spell it there, the “Noes” outnumber the “Ayes”.
The speaker confirms, after voting, that the UPA has won with 253 votes and the Opposition’s motion has been negated. The Opposition bagged 218 votes.
TMC MP Saugata Roy’s motion to amend the FEMA was also negated as expected. The no-yes vote count stand at 254-224.
6.17pm: Sushma Swaraj takes aim at Sibal again
When there’s a debate going on in the house, how can Sushma Swaraj be far behind. Just when we thought we’ve had enough of Sushma-isms, she roars back to take control of the sitauion. And her target, like expected, is Kapil Sibal.
She tears into Sibal’s speech from last day. “Mr Kapil Sibal had himself said, where in Delhi can Wal-Mart set up shop? They have to go all the way to NCR region to open up a shop. And people who own bikes and cycles, obviously, will not shop from Wal-Mart. So, by his own admission, this FDI decision has been taken to benefit the rich, right?” she asks.
Also, Sushma Swaraj hinted at a possible use of strong arm tactics by the government when she called the debate a CBI-FDI debate. The hint probably was that the government might have tried to intimidate the SP and BSP by threatening CBI inquiries against them and their governments.
5.50pm: Commerce Minister Anand Sharma rises to reply
“Decision on FDI in multi-brand retail was not taken overnight,” says Commerce Minister Anand Sharma. “Wastage of fruits and vegetables per year is Rs 65,000 crore that amounts to 30-35 percent of the produce,” he said.
While the Opposition had been trammeling the government saying that they had not been consulted while taking the FDI decision, commerce and industries minister Anand Sharma comes to the defence of the government. “When the topic of FDI was broached in 2011, I had written letters to all states asking for their opinion. Twenty-one states responded, out of which 11 were in favour of FDI. Seven states opposed it. I had gone and met Mamata Banerjee thrice and discussed the issue with her. However, she was firm on her decision to not allow FDI. And since we respected her and everybody else’s decision, we added a clause that whichever state wanted to introduce FDI could do so, whichever state didn’t, they had the freedom to abstain from it. So what is the allegation, that we didn’t consult the other parties, based on?” asks Sharma.
The commerce minister goes on to explain that the government had consulted 12 farmers’ associations, 17 consumer bodies, 6 food processing unit industry bodies before the charter of FDI in retail was framed. “Consensus means ‘aam sammati’, a majority decision. Not unanimity. If we have to wait for unanimity, we have to wait for eternity,” he says.
Sushma Swaraj, after her spasm of rhetoric spewing yesterday, seems to be giving her imagination and vocabulary a break. And delightfully enough, she has been smiling a lot. Not that we mind. Sans her Hindi flaunting, the House today witnessed a healthy debate packed with information, seemingly cohesive arguments supported by reports and facts, not flights of literary fantasy, thankfully!
Sharma plunges what could be called a ‘meethi chhuri’, into the Left’s argument. He mentions how Left MP Basudeb Acharia had acknowledged the fact that Sharma had written a three-page letter, sent to all parties, clearing their doubts on FDI. “Your politburo rejected it you said. Thank you for clarifying. We did explain and discuss with other parties,” says Sharma.
However, he concludes levelling a subtly-disguised allegation against Sushma Swaraj. “Don’t distract thd debate. Oppose if you want to, but don’t accuse us of corruption, of being a sell-out to Wal-Mart.”
4.45pm: Deepender Singh Hooda from Congress supports FDI
“I wonder what the BJP is opposing? Is it the FDI or the organised business? Why are thinking the farmers to be foolish? Farmers will always sell the produce only to those who pay them the highest,” says Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda.
“Your (Sushma Swaraj) statement on McDonalds is wrong. The potatoes used by McDonalds are from Gujarat and not from the US as Swaraj said,” Hooda said. “A scared McDonalds was forced to release a press statement after what Swaraj said in Lok Sabha,” he added.
“Quoting Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, who is bed-ridden now, is un-parliamentary. Das Munshi opposed FDI then because the NDA note talked about 100 percent FDI in multi-brand retail in the country. It was without any safeguard as it is limited to 53 cities now and only 51 percent is allowed,” Hooda said.
“Congress government stayed in India for 50 years in the last 64 years because people wanted it and not Congress,” he said.
4.30pm: Deve Gowda, opposes FDI
As former Prime Minister Deve Gowda takes to the mic to present his views on the FDI, strangely enough nobody seems to be bothered. While he seems to be on a memory-trip recollecting all the smart, wise things he had done for the country, the Opposition and the government seems to be taking a well-deserved break.
Rahul Gandhi, Mukul Deora and Sachin Pilot – on one corner of LS – seem to be having a early tiffin break chat. While the Opposition seems to be resting their vocal chords and switching off their years to prepare for further assault as Deve Gowda hams on.
“Why are so many farmers committing suicide? What is this wide-spread loot going on in this country. I oppose the multi-brand retail sale. Please save the farmers,” he mumbles. Thoughtful lines, zero punch in delivery though! And speaker Meira Kumar, who had been indulgently exhorting a reckless Lalu Prasad Yadav, must have gotten bored and hence has been asking Deve Gowda to stop his monotonous rant!
4.15pm: It’s back to Lalu again, showtime begins!
After calling the BJP jamoora, a term popularly used by puppeteers and street performers who organise street shows with monkeys and being grounded for a while, Lalu seems to have gotten his fire back. His attack on the BJP is direct, rhetoric-less and as entertaining as a zesty, average Indian street-fight over bicycle-parking space! “How dare they oppose the BJP? These people who drive around in Merceez (Mercedes for you!), how dare they say that they are opposed to foreign investment?” he hollers.
He doesn’t stop there. He dedicates a shayari (a couplet) to Sushma Swaraj. He says: “Mohabbat mein tumhe ansoon bahane nahin ata… Banaras aake Banaras ka paan khana nahin aata?” (Which roughly translates into: ‘You can’t cry when you’re in love, you come to Benaras and can’t have a Benaras paan’).
While the translation does little justice to either Lalu’s talent for rabble rousing or taking stinging digs at people, he definitely took the Parliament’s drama quotient up by several notches… almost like adding an item song to a regular Bollwyood drama!
3.40pm: Pepsi is not helping the farmers, they are practising ‘monopoly farming’
The Opposition seems to have done their homework well today. And have taken Kapil Sibal’s casual dismissal of their allegations seriously. No wonder, hence, Murli Manohar Joshi counters each argument made by Kapil Sibal with facts furnished by the government itself.
First, since Sibal had questioned why the NDA had wanted to introduce FDI in retail when they were in power, Joshi lobs the question back by quoting a statement made by Priyaranjan Das Munshi, a Congress MP then. Das Munshi had then appealed to the Speaker and the NDA government that “the multinationals were using the bureaucracy to coerce the government to take an anti-national decision”. The anti-national decision being referred to there was FDI in retail. “Why did you oppose it then? We went back on our decision then. But why are you trying to bring in something that you had opposed to vengefully then?” he asks, to an unsurely smiling Sibal.
Following which, Joshi takes up the government’s argument that foreign companies have worked in the benefit of potato farmers in Bengal. “You had said that Pepsico is in an agreement to procure potatoes from 10,000 farmers now, as opposed to 1,800 when they started off in 2010. Cultivation is happening in 7,000 acres of land now compared to the 5,500 acres that were being cultivated in 2010. You call this beneficial? It is far from that. This is what we call ‘monopoly farming’, where a foreign company monopolises even agriculture in our country,” argues Joshi.
Like we have now gotten to know, China and America are Indian legislators’ favourite points of reference. Joshi understandably goes out in defence of Swaraj’s ‘China will benefit’ comment by dismissing Sibal’s previous argument that the Wal-Mart itself is struggling in China.
Joshi, taking liberal digs at Sibal’s hasty dismissal, says that China has 6,000 manufacturing units run by Wal-Mart. “It took them 18 years and millions in losses, but they have still captured a part of China’s market to provide American will goods made with cheap labour,” says Joshi.
3.32pm: Lalu takes back his allegation, Lok Sabha resumes
After Lalu concedes that his calling BJP a jamoora or a ‘puppet’ was wrong, the Lok Sabha resumes. Murli Manohar Joshi, senior BJP leader, welcomes his move and proceeds with his argument.
3.30pm: Lok Sabha adjourned following Lalu comment
If one had been wondering, how the usually mayhem-loving Lok Sabha managed to run its full course while debating the all-important FDI, it’s time to feel vindicated. Lalu Prasad Yadav called the BJP a jamoora – a puppet – following which the Opposition erupted into protest.
As the Speaker ruled it as un-parliamentary, the LS was adjourned.
3.00pm: Now Akali Dal slams FDI in retail
Akali Dal MP, the verbose and not-to-be easily shut up Harsimrat Kaur Badal, comes as a loud, brazen foil to the Bengali Left leader’s stuttering history lessons! From the dissertation-worthy English to zesty name-calling in Hindi, the FDI debate has seen not a single dull moment till now! The moment Kaur starts talking about how the government’s FDI decision comes as a sharp kick in the stomachs of the farmers – ‘kisano ke pet mein laath‘, to quote her – the Congress MPs from Punjab start up in protest.
Kaur trashes the government’s claims that potato farmers have gained extensively after Pepsi opened shop in India. “We were with the government initially thinking that FDI will bring employment, help our farmers prosper, but we later realised that nothing like that is going to happen. Potato farmers will have to go through a series of middle men only to access these big buyers the government is flaunting!” she said.
She also goes on to point out that FDI was already enabled in the back-end infrastructure in retail which includes things like warehouses, however, no significant change has been noticed in the sector and next to no foreign investment has come in. “They are not interested in the development of our country. So they have insisted to open chain stores here,” she says.
What ensues is a futile fight of who can shout louder. Evidently, Kaur can’t be shut up and her Opposition won’t give up. As the discussion, hijacked by Kaur and moderated by the Speaker, dwindles into a lot of unintelligible shouting and scolding, all one can figure out are random words that mostly seem comical in the absence of a clear context. Phrases like “Potato King’, “Sharam Nahin Aata?(Are you not ashamed)” and “Baith Jaiye( Sit Down)” float around as viewers struggle in vain to figure out what Kaur is trying to say in her annoyed-neighbor tone!
2.32pm: ‘Madam you don’t know history’
And trust a flamboyant Bengali to trumpet his communist roots with pride anywhere! Dasgupta actually tells Sonia Gandhi that she doesn’t know history and stakes claim in the history of the Congress! “You don’t know history Madam. The communists were a part of Congress, your party’s values have not evolved without us…” he declares.
To which Anand Sharma quietly interjects. “The communists were a part of the Congress till 1920, after which they quit. They even opposed the Quit India movement in 1942,” says Sharma, leading to a tangential debate on the definition of history. “History is a continuing process,” pat comes the reply of the Bengali intellectual, while Sharma takes to laughing to himself.
Strangely enough though, the FDI debate in India seems to have gotten obsessed with China and Obama. Wal-Mart or not, we will always be a country obsessed with all things ‘foreign’ it seems!
2.26 pm: Government has the numbers, but we won’t run away says Gurudas Dasgupta
Trust the CPI(M) to stir the hornet’s nest well. As Left leader Gurudas Dasgupta stands up for his address he starts with pricking the government in more ways than one. Almost as a disclaimer, he announces that he knows that the government has the ‘resources’ to secure the majority to which, a rarely expressive Sonia Gandhi, too bristles.
Some Congress MPs protest to Dasgupta’s ‘un-parliamentary behaviour’. To which Dasgupta seems to take a step back and says that he doesn’t mean that the government has ‘bought’ votes, but it has definitely used political clout and organisational skills to ensure they get a majority in the FDI vote.
Amid random rings of ‘FDI ke liye kuch bhi karenge’, Dasgupta alleges that the PM is willing to give up his government for the ’cause of Wal-Mart’.
“Why is the Prime Minister of a country with a 120 crore population hazarding even his government to bring FDI into practice?”
2.01 pm: AIADMK slams FDI,DMK, Sibal
Expressing his parties opposition to FDI in retail, AIADMK MP Thambidurai said that the government was under presure to bring FDI which would have a harmful impact on the Indian economy and local traders. Taking a dig at Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, he said, “One Gandhi tried to save the country by opposing foreign products, other doing the opposite.”
Thamidurai’s arguments against FDI were very similar to that of those already expressed by Sushma Swaraj and other opposition MPs in that multi-national companies would choke out the competition by making prices unsustainable low and then increasing them.
But the really interesting moments of his speech came when he attacked the opposition. First targeting state arch rival DMK Thambidurai said, “Why is the DMK supporting FDI here and opposing it in Tamil Nadu? Is Tamil Nadu in Sri Lanka”
Shortly afterwards he called Kapil Sibal a ‘good liar’. Already some wags across Twitter are questioning if he meant ‘lawyer’ and was simply misunderstood because of his accent.
1.37 pm: Praful Patel begins defence for the govt, already touches a few nerves
Praful Patel has begun the UPA defence of FDI and immediately touches a nerve, asking the opposition why they don’t protest against malls if they have such a big problem with FDI, immediately prompting loud and vocal protests.
He also says that the opposition to FDI is hypocritical, especially given that Indians are such a big part of outsourcing culture “In the US, people are protesting because Indians are being hired for their companies. And you are doing the same here. In view of the economic changes, we need to change ourselves too. Will you protest against the outsourcing of Indians?”, he asked.
Patel is also trying to point out that the entrance of big companies does not necessarily mean the death of small companies. “Despite the entrance of Coca Cola in India, local brand Thums Up is more popular”, he said. What is he not saying however, is that the company was bought over by Coca Cola a few years ago. But Patel has more examples of Indian brands doing better because of international competition. “Because of KFC, and McDonalds, Indian food chains like Bikaner & Haldiram improved. Even shops in small villages improved”, he sad.
Will Coca Cola- Thums Up be Patel’s Sushma Swaraj moment?
1.30 pm: Shiv Sena makes fire and brimstone speech against FDI
Anant Geete of the Shiv Sena made a fiery speech against FDI, vowing not to allow it in the country and accusing Kapil Sibal and Anant Sharma of wanting farmers to die. “The government is taking away the rights of 20 lakh farmers and giving it to Wal-Mart. We will protest, call for Bharat Bandh. Won’t let foreign companies take away our food”
1.15 pm: BJ(D) will oppose FDI in retail
Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJ(D) has warned of the adverse effects of FDI in multi-brand retail and said that his party will oppose the measure. He warned that FDI could fuel social unrest, and pointed to a disturbing correlation between food wastage and countries dominated by multi-national brands. “FAO says this happens due to rigorous quality check depending on weight, size & shape. India cannot afford this wastage”, he said.
This is a new and compelling argument against FDI. Food for thought for the government? And speaking of food, those MPs are looking hungry. Meira Kumar has vacated the chair for a while, which is now being occupied by Arjun Charan Sethi.
12.40 pm: Sharad Yadav warns that they will ‘roll back’ government
JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav is full of fighting talk and battle metaphors today. He began by telling the government, “We do not want the government to fall, but if you don’t roll back FDI in multi brand retail, we will roll back the government”, and it only got better from there.
His next statement was, “You may win this battle, but we will win the war”.
He has also brought in for some reason, the East India Company and Chandragupta Maurya. So far this argument on FDI has blended history, economics AND politics. Impressive stuff.
Meanwhile Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJ(D) has warned that FDI in multi-brand retail could lead to social unrest.
12.27 pm: Acharia concludes speech after ignoring speaker for 17 minutes
A stubborn Acharia ignored repeated exhortions from the speaker for him to conclude his speech for a full 17 minutes, before finally sitting down. And poor Meira Kumar tried appealing to everything from reason (there is a time limit you have to adhere to) to logic (you are a senior member!) to practicality (How will we end this today?!)
Finally the only thing that worked was that oft used but still effective threat: “Nothing else will go on record!”
Sharad Yadav from the JD(U) has taken over now, and has of all things, equated the FDI debate to the Indo-US nuclear deal!
12.10 pm: FDI debate resumes in LS, vote at 5pm
The FDI debate has resumed with CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia taking the floor of the house. His argument is that previous instances of opening up the economy to FDI in various sectors have resulted in the pushing out of local manufacturers. “100% FDI in pharmaceutical sector allowed multi-national firms to take over Indian companies. These firms are no longer Indian”, he says.
Acharia is however largely repeating the arguments made by his opposition colleagues on the floor of the house yesterday, reiterating the danger of monopolization, the loss that FDI would bring to both farmers & consumers, and the soulless gain of profit for firms.
Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, who has heard it all before is asking Acharia to conclude, but he will not be stopped.
11.49 pm: Ahead of FDI, Govt questioned on Air India loss
Aviation Minister Ajit Singh is answering a barrage of opposition questions on Air India’s losses and is trying to defend the government’s ‘turn around’ plan. Ironic perhaps, given that FDI has been touted as one of the solutions to stem the massive losses in the airline industry.
Opposition MPs from across party lines are questioning the non-payment of employee salaries, safety of passengers and the handing over of routes to other private airlines.
Saying that the government was in the process if implementing its turn-around plan for the airline which included the payment of salaries, Singh also assured the house that no compromises were being taken with regard to passenger safety.
Speaker Meira Kumar ended the discussion by expressing confidence that the national flag carrier would be brought back to its national glory and that employees would be taken care of.
11.00 pm: Question Hour begins in Lok Sabha, RS adjourned till 12 pm
Lok Sabha session begins with Question Hour on ranking of Indian Universities. The vote on FDI will only take place post 5 pm.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha has been adjourned till 12 pm. The Upper House of the Parliament also did not see any work done on Tuesday, over the issue of SC/ST promotion quota.
Today however, the quota was not the issue. PTI just reported that although, like the last few days it was the BSP who was responsible for the adjournment, it was because the party was demanding a memorial for Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar in Mumbai.
10.40 pm: Confident UPA braces for UPA vote post 5pm
Parliamentary Affairs Minister KAmal Nath has just confirmed that the vote on FDI under rule 184 will take place post 5pm in the Lok Sabha.
Still no word from the BSP on what they plan to do with regards to the FDI vote, scheduled to take place on the floor of the house at 2pm today. The SP has hinted that it may abstain, but the BSP is playing its cards very close to its chest. Last week party chief Mayawati said that they would only decide what to do after hearing the debates, and the government’s arguments defending the measure.
“We are in touch with all (parties). We have requested them to support us. FDI will not hurt the interests of farmers or small traders. In fact it will help them,” Minister of
State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shulka told reporters outside Parliament House.
His remarks come hours before Lok Sabha is to take up voting on a motion moved by opposition parties against government’s decision allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail”, he said.
The UPA is fairly confident of its numbers, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath once again reiterated that the entire debate was the result of ‘politicking’ by the main opposition party.
“When Parliament cannot decide the issue of applicability of FDI states, what is left? It is only the politics of the BJP. I am appealing to all parties to defeat the politics of the BJP”, he told reporters.
9.00 pm: SP to abstain from voting on FDI?
Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav indicated today that the party may abstain from voting on FDI.
Reports say the Samajwadi Party is likely to bail out the government by either abstaining from vote or staging a walkout.
On Tuesday, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav vehemently objected to the policy reform and appealed to the government to roll it back. He said he was compelled to either give support to the Congress or take its support and any instability would be exploited by the RSS to help the BJP on this issue.
FDI vote in Lok Sabha today
A day after a fierce debate in Lok Sabha on the UPA government’s decision to allow foreign direct investment or FDI in multi-brand retail, the centre’s major reform policy will be put to vote today.
Although, the UPA government has repeatedly expressed confidence that it will survive the Opposition-sponsored motion, it’s now counting on the support of the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mayawati’s (BSP), which provide external support to the Congress government.
Round-up of FDI debate on Tuesday
The much-talked about debate on FDI in retail in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday saw SP and BSP joining the opposition in slamming the government over it but remaining ambivalent on voting on Wednesday even as UPA ally DMK vowed not to rock the boat despite its opposition to the move.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav cautioned the Congress that the FDI decision would hurt its poll prospects and benefit the BJP, as he and BSP leader Dara Singh Chauhan counselled the government not to rush with its implementation.
Both parties, whose support is crucial for UPA, termed as “fraud” the government’s contention that the FDI decision would lead to job creation and saw it as a “conspiracy” to finish off the 25 crore small traders in the country.
Yadav and Chauhan went to the extent of invoking Mahatma Gandhi in expressing opposition to FDI, with the SP chief telling Congress president Sonia Gandhi that she should give “weightage” at least to her surname and defer the move.
Chauhan said his party will disclose on Wednesday the way it will vote. “We are seriously thinking about whether to stand with the communal forces or not,” he said.
Yadav too was silent on the voting issue even as he told the government, “The role of the Opposition is to give suggestions and we are doing that. We are suggesting that you give up the FDI decision,” he said.
DMK leader TKS Elangovan said his party was strongly against FDI but “we will still not vote against you…. we will not let you down. We will not join the Opposition, we will not join the BJP…We will watch you and correct you.”
Slamming the government, leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanded withdrawal of the FDI decision in national interest fearing it would render retailers jobless, impoverish farmers and hurt consumers.
On the government’s behalf, Telecom minister Kapil Sibal accused the opposition of trying to score political points by objecting to FDI in retail and asserted that the decision would benefit farmers, small scale industries, youth and consumers in the country.
Initiating the debate on the issue, Swaraj contended that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha in 2002, had opposed FDI in retail and questioned as to what has changed that the government is so determined to implement it.
Pressing for rollback of the “disastrous” FDI decision, she told the government “hum aapko hara ke jeetna nahin chahte, hum aapko mana ke jeetna chahte (We don’t want the rollback by defeating you. We want the rollback by convincing you),” she said.
In her nearly 90-minute speech, punctuated by repeated disruptions and heated exchanges, Swaraj maintained that the concept of large supermarkets has failed in Western economies and wondered how the government was claiming it would create jobs in India.
She asserted that BJP was not opposed to FDI per se and as leader of the Opposition she was willing to travel with the Prime Minister across the world to invite investments in other sectors like infrastructure. Singh was present when she spoke.
Appealing to parties like SP and BSP to support the motion moved by her and Khagen Das (CPI-M) against 51% FDI in multi-brand retail, Swaraj said any defeat during vote will not bring down the government but will force it to rollback the decision on FDI.
“Your fear that the government will fall because of this vote is unfounded,” she said turning to members of SP and BSP, who have maintained ambiguity over their stand on voting.
Justifying the FDI decision, telecom minister Kapil Sibal attacked Swaraj and accused the BJP of doing a flip-flop on the issue.
He said when the NDA was is power, it had overruled the opinion of the Planning Commission to favour FDI in retail, which BJP had promised to roll out in its manifesto for the 2004 and 2009 elections.
Sibal asserted that the FDI decision would benefit farmers, small scale industries, youth and consumers in the country and charged BJP and Left parties with ignoring “ground reality” and helping commission agents.
TKS Elangovan (DMK), key constituent of the UPA, said it was with the government only because “it is the need of the hour to save the fiscal condition of the states.
“So, we do not want to let you down. Secondly, we do not want to join the Opposition, we do not want to join the BJP. We are not neutral. We are against the FDI in multi-brand retail,” he said.
Elangovan said the DMK does not want to oppose the government or vote against it because “we know that only the hand is injured and we do not want to put you for a whole body scan.”
“So, we have time. We are with you. We will watch you and we will correct you as and when necessary because we have to face the people. One or two things may be not in the interest of the people for which we do not want to let you down. While registering my strong opposition to the FDI in multi-brand retail, I also support the government,” he said.
Earlier, Yadav rejected government’s contention that FDI would lead to growth and said if the Western countries like the US had not benefited and seen job creation how could it be good for India.
In this context, he referred to a provision in the FDI policy to implement it only in cities having a population of 10 lakhs or more. “If you are really convinced that it is beneficial then why are you not implementing it in the entire country,” Yadav said.
He asked the government to do a rethink and not force suicides by farmers who depend only on agriculture.
Appealing to Sonia Gandhi to defer it, Yadav said if we realise later that it is beneficial we will support it.
He told Gandhi that polls were not far away and “clever” BJP and RSS will exploit this issue through their wide base in villages.
“You will not benefit electorally from it. They (BJP) will come to power. We will not come to power but we will give support to you or take support from you,” he said.
Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) said the Left parties have been opposing FDI in retail and it was due to its efforts this policy could not be implemented during UPA-I.
He said in the last winter session 60 per cent of the members of the Lok Sabha had demanded roll-back of the policy of FDI in multi-brand retail.
“During 2001 to 2010, the employment growth was 0.8 per cent. In our country there is growth in unemployment. They give one job and take away 17 jobs,” Acharia said.
Earlier, Chauhan (BSP) said Congress ruled states had already decided to implement FDI in retail and their experience should be assessed before rolling it out in other states.
On the government contention that 20 lakh jobs will be created by allowing FDI in retail, he questioned the basis for this assessment as he alleged that there was a conspiracy to finish off small farmers and traders.
“This figure is not authentic. How can we accept it will create more jobs. I feel it will end employment, particularly of SC and ST,” he said.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, Chauhan said India was the land where he (Gandhi) promoted swadeshi and opposed foreign goods.
“This (FDI in retail) will be an insult to (Mahatma) Gandhi,” the BSP leader said alleging this was a conspiracy to enslave Indians once again.
With inputs from Agencies