Parliament Live: Cong-Oppn locked in data battle on FDI

5.50 pm: The CPI(M) lashes out at the government over FDI

Basudeb Acharia, a Left MP from Bankura, West Bengal vociferously opposes the FDI move by saying that the government is clued out about the state of the country's economy.

"If the Wal-mart gives one person a job, it will deprive 17 people of employment. How will the government account for that. Doesn't the government see the tears of the families whose breadwinners have committed suicide. There have been more than 2,50,000 farmer suicides, what has the government done to address the woes of the families?" he asks.

5.50 pm: Now DMK joins the anti-FDI bandwagon

There seems to be a profusion of metaphors in the House as TKS Elangovan of the DMK says that though they strongly oppose FDI, they will not vote against the government because 'they are brothers and have done a lot of good work together'.

He adds, "Since the problem is in just the hand, we will not make you go through a full body scan."

In case you didn't get it, he probably meant that just because DMK has a problem with one of the government's several decisions, they are against the idea of holding the government and their relationship ransom for it.

5.25 pm: Dara Singh Chouhan of BSP echoes Sushma Swaraj's sentiments

"We have not been able to give our farmers roads, electricity, health facilities... and we are talking about FDI! Bring FDI in power, irrigation, aviation and such sectors. The government is saying that people will get employment from FDI, they will earn more. However, I think this is a conspiracy to take away the little money that the poor in India have!" says Chouhan.

5.00 pm: Mulayam Singh Yadav opposes FDI in Parliament

After the high octane drama that unfolded between the Swaraj and Sibal, Mulayam Singh Yadav steps in to clarify his stand. However, as a disclaimer, he says beforehand that though he is opposed to FDI, it doesn't mean he supports all of the Opposition's arguments.

He says: "When Pepsi and Coca Cola entered the India markets, we were told that the farmers are going to benefit extensively from it. No farmer has gained anything from the companies. In fact, the farmers have progressed because of their own efforts - not because an MNC supported them. These companies invested Rs 80 crore but it did not benefit the farmers."

Yadav says: "Small time businessmen cannot compete with the retail houses. FDI in retail will increase poverty in the country. Companies will go only to cities with 10 lakh population and above because small places with poor people will not be able to afford them. This will harm their profits. (To Sonia Gandhi) You are forgetting Swadeshi principles and you are looking for foreign formulas. "

5.00 pm:Who-knows-the-poor-better contest!

The Congress and the BJP seem to be competing to prove how tragically they can describe India's poor. While Sushma Swaraj spoke at length about the 'tears of the poor', Sibal goes on to say how most of India cannot afford to shop at Wal-mart now! They'd rather work for it!

However, Sibal doesn't seem to have gut enough to stand up to Swaraj it seems! Once Swaraj rises to the occasion and asserts that they don't have a problem with voting right now, Sibal, gives up, gingerly.

4.45 pm: Sibal counters Sushma's allegations

Sibal attempts to counter Saugata Roy and Sushma Swaraj point by point. Given that both the parties alleged that China will benefit from the Wal-mart setting up shop in India, Sibal goes on to read out a Forbes report which reports how the Wal-mart has failed to take off in China.

"When Wal-mart itself has not been able sink its roots into China, how will the country benefit of they started doing business here?" asks Sibal.

Sibal then reminds the NDA that in 2004, their government, in a bid to prop up their India Shining campaign had mooted the idea of FDI. Interestingly, Swaraj had brought the same up but refused to elaborate why they had considered FDI and then discarded the idea. The Congress, in true Opposition behaviour, was against the move then. Swaraj had asked a while back: "Why Mr Prime Minister have you changed your mind now?" Though she herself ought to answer the same question!

Sibal returns the favour asking the NDA why they had considered the FDI decision then? And why they don't relate to it now?

Saugata Roy, however, seems to be Sibal's favourite target. To explain the effect of foreign investment in the country, Sibal takes up West Bengal as example. "Pepsico in 2010 had started procuring potatoes from farmers in 2012. They started off with buying 22,000 metric tonne in 2010. In 2012, in just two years, they have started buying 60,000 metric tonne. Who is benefitting from this? If not the farmers?" he asks, in an attempt to shut the Opposition up.

He again quotes a corn farmer in West Bengal as expressing that he has suffered losses by selling his crop at vegetable markets as opposed to corporate value chains. "'I can only manage to sell the crop for Rs 5 a kilo at vegetable markets where as supermarkets buy them for Rs 12 a kilo' - the farmer had said. I have been to West Begal and am aware of its conditions," he mocks.

Seems like the debate has turned into a Congress-BJP fact-checking fight and the casualty is the poor viewer!

 

4.23 pm: Kabil Sibal - the antidote to Sushma Swaraj?

For a layman, Kapil Sibal might almost seem like an antidote to all things Sushma Swaraj! Defending the government's stand on FDI, Sibal goes on to explain how the process will work. "We have decided to introduce FDI in cities which have a population of more than 10 lakh. There are only 53 such cities in India. Out of them, there were certain states who were opposed to the idea. So we gave them the freedom to choose to stay away from it. So, we are basically left with 18 cities where we want to introduce FDI in. So how are we selling the country off to America and Walmart?" Sibal asks with a hearty laugh.

The Opposition doesn't take to their leader's poetry being trashed like that and erupts into shouting and howling. This is when Kamal Nath steps in to warn the Opposition that the next time they speak, the ruling party MPs will not listen to them too!

3.47 pm: Now TMC's Saugata Roy falls back on Tagore to argue against FDI

After Sushma Swaraj's colourful address, Trinamool MP Saugata Roy presents his case against the FDI move. Out of the government and spurned by the Opposition, Roy isn't in a very friendly position. And it is evident! He starts with complimenting Swaraj and then reminding the House of the no-trust vote bungle, to which most other parties in the Opposition choose to look away!

He then goes on to explain how the 'Chinas' or the 'Americas' are set to benefit from FDI and not India.

However, probably feeling compelled to match Sushma's footsteps, Roy falls back on Rabindranath Tagore. "I come from Bengal, where Siraj-ud-daulah lost the Battle of Plassey. Quoting Tagore, I can say, 'they came as traders and became kings'," he says. "Does America want to do that too?"

If literature is not your thing, Roy has something for even the tabloid gossip addict watching the LS debate. When law minister Salman Khurshid protested to Roy bringing up Hillary Clinton and her 'arrangements' with Walmart, Roy valiantly declared: "I am not yielding."

He doesn't stop at that. He goes back to comment on Khurshid's 'sensitivity'. "Mr Khurshid is a sensitive man. Positively sensitive about Hillary Clinton and negatively sensitive about Arvind Kejriwal."

Predictably, the Oxford man doesn't respond. But so doesn't the rest of the house. Someone tell Roy, being funny, even if unintentionally, is his party chief's forte! Not his!

3.47 pm: We are not opposed to FDI in all sectors, says Swaraj

Concluding her long, elaborate and overtly dramatic speech opposing FDI in multi-brand retail, Sushma Swaraj says that the party was not opposed to foreign investment in all sectors. "Bring FDI in power, in airlines etc. We are not opposed to that. But we can sell our rice and dal. We don't need a Wal-mart to do it for us!" says Swaraj to zealous hooting from her party colleagues.

She also offers a truce and snubbing the TMC once more, indirectly, says that they don't mean to bring the government down. "If the government listens to us and doesn't bring in the FDI in retail, we will go out to the world, matching steps with the government to seek investment in other sectors. And if the government goes ahead, without paying heed to us, I urge all the parties in this house to vote against the move. This won't fell the government - this will force the government to trash the FDI decision. Don't fear that the government will fall if you vote against FDI," she said.

Now that was a not-so-veiled call to the SP and the BSP!

 

3.26 pm: China will benefit from FDI in multi-brand retail in India

Whichever country has introduced FDI in multi-brand retail, their local businesses have perished says Sushma Swaraj citing a 'videshi (foreign) report'.

Swaraj harps on the government's claims that the foreign supermarket chains will have to procure 30 percent of their material from local SMEs. Given that she had initially said that the problem of of middlemen will just increase with the advent of FDI, she now says that the SMEs stand to gain nothing from the move. Instead, it will be the Chinese who will be laughing their way to the banks after the FDI is introduced in India.

"The remaining 70 percent of the goods sold in these supermarkets will be procured from China. Factories will open in China, traders will prosper in China while darkness will befall 12 crore people in India," she declares.

"Lights will shine in the malls but 12 crore fellow Indias will languish in darkness," she adds, showing no signs of tiring of her inner drama queen!

However, what is more interesting is how she positions arch rivals China and US in a debate that has to do with India. While she alleges that China will benefit unfairly from the FDI move, she points out how Barack Obama spearheads a movement that urges Americans to go and shop at small, independent establishments as opposed to supermarket chains!

As far as memory goes, one of the Opposition's primary allegations against the Manmohan Singh government, when the FDI issue broke on the horizon, was that the India is trying to please the US by expanding their business interests in India. They event went to the length of suggesting a possible link between the FDI announcement and Sonia Gandhi's trips to the US!

Facepalm moment for the BJP?

3.06 pm: The Sushma Swaraj school of roof-shattering rhetoric!

If you have been following, struggling to follow or merely gasping everytime Sushma Swaraj speaks a word, you have by now admirably upgraded your Hindi vocabulary. And if any Bollywood dialogue writer has had the misfortune to watch this, he might just be looking towards alternative career options.

"Will Wal-mart care about the poor farmer's sister's wedding? Will Wal-mart send his children to school? Will Wal-mart notice his tears and hunger?" - now translate that to Hindi. In case your knowledge in this certain school of Hindi is inadequate, fall back on all those Manmohan Desai, Yash Chopra film CDs and take a trip down the 'mere paas maa hai' school of dialogue writing once more. You will come just a little closer to decoding Swaraj's speech! And maybe also her argument.

2.50 pm: Supermarkets introduce 'predatory pricing' to kill markets, says Swaraj

While Sushma Swaraj's argument might seem less about a debate on FDI and more of an intimidating lesson on the expanse of the Hindi vocabulary, Swaraj, harps on quite a few stereotypes while bolstering her argument. "Hum mahilayen shopping to karte hain... (We women shop a lot)," she says, going on to explain how her experiences have convinced her that multiple shops, like we find in India bazaars, make sure that the customer is not cheated.

Who knew shopping could of such lofty consequences?

"If you go to a saudagar bazar, there are 20 shops of cosmetics in the same lane. The shopkeepers will not dare to cheat a customer," she exclaims. Seems like Swaraj has profuse faith in the haggling skills of the great Indian middle class!

"These supermarkets introduce predatory pricing. At first, they will introduce such low prices, that will finish the rest of the market. Then when the customer has no other choice, they will keep hiking prices and looting the people," she goes on to assert.

2.40 pm: Sushma Swaraj initiates the debate and reiterates the Opposition's earlier allegations 

Sushma Swaraj reiterates the Opposition's earlier allegation that the government has not honoured its promise of discussing the FDI decision with them. "It doesn't hurt the government to bow to the demand of its people. In doing so any government demonstrates the greatness of democracy. But this government doesn't seem to think like that," says Sushma.

2.25 pm: Speaker Meira Kumar shoots down the Opposition's plea that they should be given 30 days before the debate takes place

Even as the Lok Sabha erupts with the mere mention of the FDI debate, the speaker manages to bring the situation under control and rules that the FDI debate and the discussion on FEMA can be conducted together. However, Kumar rules that the FDI vote can happen later.

Should the Congress be worried? Given that the SP famously came up with a last moment shocker and the BSP declared that they are only supporting the UPA on FDI for the latter's predilection for 'secularism', more time means giving the allies more time to have the Congress dance to their tunes and maybe barter a few political compromises.

2.15 pm: Uproar even before the debate is properly underway

In a sign of things to come, the clearly on-edge MPs are already shouting each other down. The BJP is calling for a separate discussion on FEMA, saying that the amendments to its regulations should be debated seperately and not in collaboration with the FDI.

The BJP's Yashwant Sinha and Left leaders say that a vote right now would be premature, and want the FEMA amendments to be left open to the house for 30 days so that MPs can consider their stands. However the government is opposing the proposal on the grounds that the opposition has asked for - and got - a debate and vote on the issue.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath speaking amid a growing uproar shouted, "Madam! They wanted a vote! They have it! They should be happy!"

2.0o pm: Buckle up for the great FDI debate

And the time has finally come. After days of wrangling, and back and forth the FDI debate is finally about to get underway in the Lok Sabha. Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj will open the debate.

The vote will take place tomorrow.

The government says it is confident of its numbers despite vague statements by both its outside allies - the SP and BSP.

Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav said that his party's support for FDI in retail should not be taken for granted even in the Lok Sabha, and strongly hinted that they would abstain rather than vote for the measure.

Speaking to the Times Now channel Yadav said, "Our final stand on FDI will only be decided after listening to the logic of the government, the arguments of the government, and what benefits they say it will give the country". However he added that it was already a foregone conclusion that it would not be implemented in Uttar Pradesh, "no matter what Delhi decides".

The role of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which support the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from outside, are crucial in the debate.

Yadav surprised everyone last week by saying: "If there is a vote on FDI in Rajya Sabha, we will vote against it. We will not let it pass."

It was always taken for granted however, that the party would support the government in the Lok Sabha. But Yadav has cast doubt even on that. "It should not be taken for granted that we will support it. We are inclined to not support it even in the Lok Sabha", he told Times Now.

His comments come hours after BSP chief Mayawati said that her party does not support FDI and would decide how to vote on the "floor of house" on Wednesday.

"Inviting FDI in retail without clauses for the use of local produce would mean an invitation to foreigners to earn maximum profits here. FDI in retail will affect farmers and small traders," she told reporters in Lucknow.

12.30 pm: Lok Sabha resumes work, all is calm.. so far

And after that uproar that caused the adjournment of the house for half an hour, the Lok Sabha has resumed functioning as normal with 'matters of urgent public importance'. We finally have heard that the ruckus was caused over alleged irregularities in a gas deal by the Gujarat government.

The alleged irregularities were first brought up by Information and broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Monday, when he quoted a Tehelka report about a gas exploration project in the Krishna-Godavari basin and said Chief Minister Narendra Modi should clarify.

“We are merely raising some questions that arise out of a story published in Tehelka magazine. The people of Gujarat want the state government or the chief minister to clarify", he said. (Read more details about the Congress' allegation)

The BJP has dismissed the charge.

12.09 pm: Lok Sabha adjourned till 2pm, will this affect FDI debate?

The Lok Sabha has been adjourned till 12.30 pm after massive uproar from the opposition after papers were laid on the table at noon. No word yet on what the source of the disturbance was. Remember, the all important debate on FDI in retail is scheduled to take place at 2pm.

Meanwhile the Rajya Sabha has been adjourned till 2pm soon after it was convened, presumably by the SP and BSP. The SP has been protesting the 'illegal' detention of 'innocent' Muslim youth on terror charges, while the BSP wants the SC/ST promotions quota bill passed.

The Rajya Sabha has only seen two full days of work this session so far.

11.58 am: Congress counting numbers as Telangana MPs boycott FDI meet

Keeping Congress on tenterhooks on their strategy during the crucial FDI vote tomorrow, eight party MPs from the Telangana region in Andhra Pradesh today boycotted a meeting called by party floor leaders in Parliament to seek their assurances on participation in the debate.

11.06 am: FDI debate at 2pm in Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha adjourned till noon

The Rajya Sabha has been adjourned thanks to the two main Uttar Pradesh parties, the SP and BSP.

The BSP have been consistently demanding that the promotions quota bill for SC/ST be passed before any other business is even taken up for consideration. The move is not wholly unexpected, and a resolution will have to be sought, as the all important FDI debate will take place on Thursday.

The SP is opposing the SC/ST bill. However their protest was not caused by the bill.

The Samajwadi Party uproar was over the alleged arrest of "innocent" Muslim youth on terror charges.

Of the total 245 members in the Rajya Sabha, the UPA has a strength of 90. With 27 outside supporters from the BSP, SP, Lok Janshakti Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the government tally stands at 117 as against the magical 123 figure for majority.

The Lok Sabha debate on FDI will take place at 2pm. Question hour is currently underway.

BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy confirmed that the debate would be started by Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj.

10.40 am: Kamal Nath confident despite SP, BSP uncertainty 

The Samjwadi Party may have just dropped a bombshell with regards to its stand on FDI in the Lok Sabha, but Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath is not blinking. Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, Nath reiterated that the UPA was confident.

" I have been consistently saying that the motion passed by the BJP in both houses of Parliament wil be defeated. This is just politics in the name of FDI on the part of the BJP, and we urge all parties to reject it", he said.

He also said that he was not currently in 'talks' with anyone, and that he was confident. Perhaps that confidence has something to do with the following tweet by Rajdeep Sardesai?

10.30 am: Retail stocks make merry ahead of FDI debate

While the markets are cautious ahead of the FDI vote in Parliament, retail stocks are riding high this morning. While the Kishor Biyani-led Pantaloon Retail is up 1.73 percent at Rs 234.75, Tata-owned Trent is up 0.27 percent in a flat market.

But even if the government does get the numbers to pass the bill on FDI in multi-brand retail, investments by foreign companies will still take a considerable amount of time given both logistics and the fact that foreign multinationals will only be allowed to set up shop in states that allow FDI, rather than pan-India.

9.40 am: Don't take SP support for granted says Ram Gopal Yadav

Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav said that his party's support for FDI in retail should not be taken for granted even in the Lok Sabha, and strongly hinted that they would abstain rather than vote for the measure.

Speaking to the Times Now channel Yadav said, "Our final stand on FDI will only be decided after listening to the logic of the government, the arguments of the government, and what benefits they say it will give the country". However he added that it was already a foregone conclusion that it would not be implemented in Uttar Pradesh, "no matter what Delhi decides".

The role of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which support the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from outside, are crucial in the debate.

Yadav surprised everyone last week by saying: "If there is a vote on FDI in Rajya Sabha, we will vote against it. We will not let it pass."

It was always taken for granted however, that the party would support the government in the Lok Sabha. But Yadav has cast doubt even on that. "It should not be taken for granted that we will support it. We are inclined to not support it even in the Lok Sabha", he told Times Now.

His comments come hours after BSP chief Mayawati said that her party does not support FDI and would decide how to vote on the "floor of house" on Wednesday.

"Inviting FDI in retail without clauses for the use of local produce would mean an invitation to foreigners to earn maximum profits here. FDI in retail will affect farmers and small traders," she told reporters in Lucknow.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said: "We are in touch with both the SP and the BSP. We hope they will vote in favour of FDI in retail."

Of the total 245 members in the Rajya Sabha, the UPA has a strength of 90. With 27 outside supporters from the BSP, SP, Lok Janshakti Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the government tally stands at 117 as against the magical 123 figure for majority.

The opposition claims the support of 110 members. Besides, there are seven independents, five from smaller parties and 10 nominated.

9.00 am: UPA confident as Lok Sabha gears up for FDI debate 

D-day is here in Parliament, with the FDI debate and vote under section 184 scheduled to take place in the Lok Sabha today. And after weeks of hard work on the part of its floor managers, the UPA says it is confident of its numbers.

"We are confident of the numbers," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters.

Terming the debate as "pure politics", Nath urged all parties to reject the politics behind the motion sponsored by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

"I urge all parties to reject the politics of it and vote against the politics in the house," said Kamal Nath. "The policy is very clear that the states have to decide on allowing any (FDI in retail) proposal".

PTI

The Congress has issued a whip to all its members asking them to be present in the Lok Sabha on 4 and 5 December for the crucial debate and vote on FDI in retail.

The minister said the government would get the amendments to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), required to facilitate FDI in multi-brand retail, passed in both houses, if needed.

"Passing it in one house is sufficient as per the rules. But if it is required, we will pass it in both the houses," Kamal Nath said.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury recently said that amendments to the FEMA need to be passed in both houses and any failure on the part of the government to do so would be challenged in court.

While the debate in the Lok Sabha will be held under Rule 184, in the Rajya Sabha it will be held under Rule 168.

Though the UPA government is confident of sailing through in the lower house, it does not have the required numbers in the Rajya Sabha.

The CPI-M also wants a vote on amendments to FEMA, tabled in the Lok Sabha Friday. Both houses of parliament have seen repeated disruptions on the issue since the winter session began on 22 November.

With inputs from agencies

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