3: 00 pm: Lok Sabha adjourned for the day over demand for probe
And now the House has been adjourned for the day as the BJP continued to demand a probe over the issue. Thanks to House not functioning, its definitely not going to happen today. Who wins really?
2:30 pm: BJP disrupts house demanding announcement of probe into Wal-Mart lobbying report
BJP’s Yashwant Sinha who is leading the charge on this issue demanded a probe into the matter be announced today failing which the House cannot be allowed to function.
“Instead of Lutyens Delhi it has become Looti-hai Delhi where everything is being stolen…There are many things that are legal in the US but are not in India,” Sinha said referring to the report on Wal-Mart using funds for lobbying.
Because the government has been silent on the issue we have decided to rake up the issue, he said.
“I would like to strongly demand that the government announce right now the probe that will be undertaken in the matter,” he said.
He said the BJP would accept any of the UPA ministers present in Parliament making the announcement. Ministers like Manish Tewari and Preneet Kaur quickly found refuge in other documents and refused to acknowledge his demand.
“If there is no announcement of a probe then how can we let the House function?” Sinha said.
Almost on cue, the BJP MPs were up on their feet shouting slogans against the government and storming into the well of the House. The Lok Sabha has been adjourned till 3 pm.
2:15 pm:CPI, SP back demand for inquiry into the lobbying allegations
CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta highlighted how five Wal-Mart employees had been sacked for offering bribes and pointed out the lobbying report in the US Senate only proved his claims.
“India has been put to shame not by Wal-Mart but because unnamed Indian officials have taken bribes,” Dasgupta said.
The resolution on FDI in retail was carried through because of the bribe, he alleged.
The CPI also backed the demand for an inquiry and also demanded a probe by the JPC.
The Samajwadi Party has also demanded an inquiry into the matter.
The Biju Janata Dal urges MPs to come out clean and bring out the secrets from the closet on how the policy decision on FDI in multi-brand retail was taken. The MP demands an investigation but before being able to come to a fine oratorial conclusion is also asked to take a seat.
2:00 pm: CPM seeks time bound probe, wants to know who took money; TMC backs them
The Lok Sabha has resumed proceedings but there are MPs who protested the absence of the Leader of the House and others.
The Left is the first off the blocks to take on the government over the report in the US Senate about the funds used by Wal-Mart for lobbying.
“Lobbying is not illegal in US but it is called a commission in India. It is a bribe here,” Basudev Acharya told the Lower House.
When asked to keep his comments brief, he retorted, “How can I? It is a matter of crores how can I speak in brief?”
He has also demanded a time bound judicial inquiry into the matter and it shouldn’t function like the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
“They should tell us who has taken the money!” he thundered, before being told to take his seat by the Deputy Speaker.
The Trinamool Congress as always has gone one up on the Left, and has demanded that there should be a Joint Parliamentary Committee that should probe the matter. FDI in multi-brand retail should be stopped until then, the TMC said.
12:30 pm: Nath says he was going to announce inquiry earlier but was prevented from doing so
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said that he will announce the finer details of the probe into the Wal-Mart report later after consulting with other parties within the government.
“I will discuss with the government on the nature of the probe to carried out. It is the concern of the government as much as it is that of the Opposition,” he said.
“We have no hesitation in carrying out a probe into the matter and we will announce further details of this in the Houses of Parliament later,” Nath said.
I was going to announce the probe earlier itself but Opposition parties prevented me from saying it, Nath said.
12: 15 pm: Lok Sabha adjourned till 2 pm, Nath promises inquiry into Wal-Mart report
Sushilkumar Shinde says the government is willing to respond to the statements made by the Opposition.
And who’s this? Could it be Kamal Nath, who was just now in the Rajya Sabha? Yes it is, and he’s here to try and save the day for the UPA government in the Lower House as well.
“The government has no hesitation in holding an inquiry to get to the facts of the matter. We will announce the steps in this matter in the house later today,” Kamal Nath managed to shout over the din.
However, that was the last statement anyone managed to make with the Lok Sabha being adjourned till 2 pm as MPs continued to shout in the well of the House.
12:10 pm: BJP seeks judicial inquiry, Nath agrees to discussion in RS
The Lok Sabha resumed but with chaos reigning. BJP’s Yashwant Sinha attempted to call for a probe into the Wal-Mart report.
“Their system is not opaque like ours. It is because of the transparency of the US Parliamentary system that we know that Wal Mart has spent money in India to ensure an entry into the retail market,” he said.
“The question is who has received the money,” he said.
The BJP has demanded a time bound judicial inquiry into the matter which will give its report in 60 days.
Meanwhile in the Rajya Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said that the government is open to discussion on the issue and said he could make a further statement on the issue.
“It is not as much a matter of concern for the Opposition as it is for the government and we are open to a discussion on the matter,” Nath said.
11. 40 am: Rajya Sabha adjourned till noon
After the Rajya Sabha resumed, it was again adjourned immediately till noon as the Opposition refused to discuss anything except the Wal-Mart lobbying report.
11. 30 am: PM, Sonia meet to discuss logjam in Parliament
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi met to discuss the logjam in Parliament. The Opposition had stalled both Houses of the Parliament and suspended the question hour over the Wal-Mart lobbying report.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Manish Tewari accused the BJP of playing ‘dirty politics’ in the FDI issue. “BJP has developed a strange methodology…first you make an allegation, repeat it, and then you believe in it. It is like raising a ghost, slaying it, and believing you are a hero,” he said.
11.11 am: Livid Hamid Ansari proposes dispensing with question hour altogether
And in the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari has had enough! After exhorting MPs to sit down and let question hour proceed, a visibly furious Ansari got up and made a short speech saying,
“For many days now the chair has had to watch helplessly while question hour is disrupted again and again. So I propose a meeting of the rules committee and put before the members, two options. One, that we move question hour to another part of the day, or two, seeing that no one is interested in having their questions answered, we dispense with question hour altogther. This house is adjourned for thirty minutes!”
He then got up and walked off, leaving a stunned Rajya Sabha in his wake.
11.04 am: Lok Sabha adjourned till noon
And we all saw this coming. The Lok Sabha began and ended in the blink of an eye, after BJP MPs stormed the well of the house, demanding the suspension of question hour to bring up the Wal-Mart lobbying report that revealed it had spent $25 million, lobbying for access in to India.
Speaker Meira Kumar tried telling the MPs that she would give them zero hour for the discussion, but to no avail. The house will now meet again at noon.
10.52 am: BJP gives notice for suspension of question hour
The BJP Parliamentary board meeting has ended, and it has been decided to raise the Wal-Mart lobbying report in both houses of Parliament. The party has already given notice for the suspension of question hour. Always an ominous sign, because that is often the precursor to sloganeering and adjournment.
Speaking to reporters after the parliamentary meeting, BJP spokesman Venkiah Naidu said, “In the US lobbying may be legal, but in India it is not. We want an independent probe in to the matter”.
The government which has been dismissing the BJP’s charges of ‘benign bribery’, are saying that they are willing to give the BJP a reply on the floor of the house.
10:30 am: BJP demands independent probe into Wal-Mart report, Congress goes into a huddle
CNN IBN reports that the BJP is seeking an independent probe into the report that alleged Wal-Mart had spent crores to lobby for an entry into the Indian retail market.
Like in the past, expect the BJP to settle for nothing less than their demand and it could mean a noisy day in Parliament again.
The channel reports that the BJP has given a notice for suspension of question hour in both Houses to debate the matter.
Meanwhile, the Congress core committee is meeting in Parliament to decide their course of action. Too early to predict a washed out day in Parliament?
9.30 am: BJP to bring up Wal-Mart lobbying report in Lok Sabha
The UPA government was probably hoping that last week’s vote would put an end to the uproar around FDI in multi-brand retail and Wal-Mart, but clearly that is not to be. Armed with a disclosure report that revealed that Wal-Mart had spent a whopping $25 million lobbying for access to India, the BJP is all set to storm the Lok Sabha after bringing it up in the Rajya Sabha yesterday.
The stance of the BJP is that ‘lobbying’ is a more ‘benign’ form of bribery and is demanding to know into whose pockets that money went.
BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Rajya Sabha yesterday that in 2012 alone, Wal-Mart spent $3 million in India. “Lobbying is illegal in India. This is a case of bribery,” he said.
Prasad demanded names of the recipients of Rs 125 crore spent by Wal-Mart for lobbying in India be made public.
“If Walmart can disclose to the US Senate on lobbying money, then India should exert pressure on it to reveal the names of recipients here,” he said.
The upper house of Parliament was adjourned repeatedly over the issue, with the opposition shouting down the arguments of Minister of state for Parliamentary Affairs, Rajiv Shukla.
The US has come out in defence of Wal-Mart, saying that the company had not violated any US law in its lobbying activities, while local joint venture Bharti Wal-Mart said that the expenditures are a compilation of expenses associated with staff, association dues, consultants and contributions spent in the US.
With inputs from agencies