7.00pm: Venkaiah Nadu apologises to Congress MP for calling her ‘bewakoof’
After kicking up a storm by calling a woman Congress MP, who interrupted his Rajya Sabha address, ‘bewakoof’, or an ‘idiot’, Venkaiah Naidu said he was sorry, before the House.
“I met her in the lobby and she was very upset with my behaviour. My intention was not to hurt her. I was carried away in the heat of the debate. I apologised to her there and I am saying sorry again before the House,” said Naidu to encouraging table thumping from his party colleagues.
6.12pm Bhalchandra Mungekar from Congress takes on Venkaiah Naidu
“I have never enjoyed such a contradictory speech, given just now by my colleague Venkaiah Naidu. If you claim you were out of power in 2004 because you wanted to implement FDI, why are you worried now? You should be happy because we will be out of power,” said Bhalchandra Mungekar from Congress.
Mungekar rakes in Babri Masjid issue. Now the Oppostion up on its feet, particularly those from BJP.
“You never broke the disputed structure in Ayodhya. You destroyed the mosque,” he said, targetting the BJP.
“Reference to Babri Masjid a preamble to FDI,” says Mungekar.
5.58pm: Hell breaks loose in Rajya Sabha over the use of word Bewakoof
Venkaiah Naidu uses the Hindi word Bewakoof against another member igniting a massive uproar in the Treasury Bench. Members of the Treasury Bench rushed to the front row of the House and started sloganeering. Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien had to give two rulings to calm down the shouting members. Finally the word was expunged and Naidu concluded his speech, appealing to his colleagues to support the motion moved by AIADMK’s V Maitreyan against FDI in multi-brand retail.
Naidu ended his speech not without a warning to the Congress, “You will be routed and you will be out soon.”
5.27pm: Venkaiah Naidu stirs a hornet’s nest, calls BSP, Congress allies
Pandemonium breaks out in the Rajya Sabha after a longish lull, when a series of speakers from smaller regional parties had presented their opinions. BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu swims into the deep by calling the BSP allies of the Congress. To which, BSP, whose leader Mayawati was continually interrupted during her address by the BJP, pounces on the speaker. What can best be described as hoodlum-ish screaming, the BSP protests to Naidu’s calling them Congress allies.
However, Naidu, at the risk of not being heard, refuses to go back on his comment. “I am happy that the BSP is clarifying that they are not allies of Congress. But if they are not allies, what is their relationship?” asks Naidu.
As Naidu goes on with his allegations that SP and the BSP might be Congress allies, Mani Shankar Aiiyar who had compared the behaviour of Rajya Sabha MPs with those of monkeys, jumps into the defence of the government. He must be picking up the ways of the alleged monkeys, since he too is seen hollering and shouting as the Speaker tries to calm the house.
Naidu, however, sounds out the most ingenious warning to the UPA government! “When we thought about FDI in 2004, we lost. Do you want the same thing to happen to you? Do you want to go the same way in 2014?” asks Naidu. Now, that’s some warning!
Naidu says that he has met farmers who have expressed discontent with the arrangements they have with MNCs like Pepsico. “At first the companies gave them great prices for their potato crop. The farmers lost touch with the local market and started depending heavily on the MNCs. They these people started complaining about the crops and forced the farmers who sell them potatoes at prices decided by them,” explains Naidu.
However, given his streak to court trouble, Naidu again calls someone, who dared to butt in, ‘bewakoof’ (meaning stupid), to which a cacophony of women starts yelling in shrill voices. After witnessing the fighting in the Parliament, one actually feels the need of declaring certain voices ‘un-parliamentary’ too alongside words and behaviour!
4.00pm: SP criticises government, so does DMK, but the latter still backs govt
Naresh Agarwal of the SP reiterated the party’s stand on FDI by saying it will throw small traders out of work. He made a generous use of fables, anecdotes and poetry to prop his argument. Following which Tiruchi Siva of the DMK says that though they don’t want to back out on the government, they think FDI can’t be very good for the health of MSMEs in the country.
Whoever has been following the Lok Sabha debate will figure out that the Rajya Sabha counterpart of the same is a collection of differently-worded, similar in content, arguments. Pity there’s to Lalu to save the day. From boredom that is!
3.45pm: ‘You introduced FDI when Washington Post mocked you’
How can poetry be far behind, when TMC is in the forefront? Keeping with his party chief’s fierce love for flouncy rhetoric, Trinamool MP Derek o’ Brien attempts to take on the government with a metaphor heavy address. While he starts off saying what all TMC MPs are crying themselves hoarse over, that ‘TMC is the true anti-FDI crusader’. He then goes on a poetic tangent slamming everything from the disel price hike to the FDI decision.
“Reform is not driving a housewife in Bankura to tears. Reform is being true to the salt of India…” narrates the TMC MP.
He doesn’t stop at just that. He takes to taking direct digs at the Prime Minister by bringing up the Washington Post cover story on him. “The Washington Post had called the PM a tragic figure leading a deflated regime. Just 10 days after that came the government’s FDI decision. Maybe you should send a thank you note to the WP!”
We can but hope that the MP too doesn’t go on obstuse tangents like his party chief by suggesting that the FDI decision was taken in haste, following the Washington Post’s criticism. Or that the Washington Post article was the American government’s way to pressurise the government!
“Yours is a deformed government which has long ceased to perform,” he hollers at the PM. “I would welcome FDI. But only when the Murshidabad silks sarees will have a ready market in the Australia. When the Jaipur foot will be sold in Jamaica!” he demands.
Since Australia is not taking to wearing sarees like a rage anytime soon and Jamaica is not being crippled overnight, it will be quite a while before the TMC comes around in support of the FDI it seems!
3.10pm: Sitaram Yechury opposes FDI
Sitaram Yechury of the Left voices his criticism of the government’s FDI move by citing the nuclear deal that was signed with the US in 2008.
“When the Indo-US nuclear deal was signed the commercials that were aired and the advertisments that went up talked abot how the students in rural areas will study in peace, how farmers and small traders in villages will benefit. Four years on, there are 15-15 hours of power cuts in villages. What has happened? Nothing! The same applies for FDI. The promises that are being made won’t be fulfilled. And once the foreign companies have dug their heels into the country, they will only think of their own profits, not our,” says Yechury.
2.50 pm: Mayawati to vote for FDI
Putting month-long speculations to rest, Mayawati comes out in support of the government and declares that she will back and government and vote in favour of FDI.
The BSP leader, who had a tough time speaking, ripped into the Opposition and their alleged attempts to broker a political deal with her. However, she played cleverly safe when voicing her opinions about FDI. She categorically avoided placing her own opinions before the house. Instead she seemed to sum up the whole debate around FDI by listing out the arguments for and against it. Finally, she said that it won’t be right to arrive to a decision about the policy without giving it some more time or letting a trial run happen.
“And this is why I am with the government on the FDI issue,” she declared to loud table-thumping and approving hoots from the ruling party.
2.40 pm: Mayawati finally gets to speak
The Parliament resumes its business after it was adjourned for 10 minutes as Mayawati stood up in defence of her party and herself. While the BJP MPs,especially party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad keeps on interjecting, Mayawati struggles through her speech, reasserting that ever since that the BJP had been thrown out of power, they have been making baseless allegations against the BSP and Mayawati.
“Prior to the elections in 2004, the BJP had approached me for an alliance against the Congress. I had declined. In 2004, power changed hands and ever since the BJP has been repeatedly saying that whatever decision my party takes, it is mostly decision under pressure from CBI. For the same reason, I moved the Supreme Court to prove the allegations against me false. And I am obliged to the court that it dismissed all the false cases of corruption that the CBI had started against me. What more proof does the Opposition want?”
And the Rajya Sabha, like the Lok Sabha, too was not without its own share wordplay. Mayawati termed the BJP’s actions as ‘chhichhorapan’ – a Hindi slang which roughly translates into cheap behaviour. Shouts of ‘un-parliamentary’ behaviour again rented the air as the Speaker had to struggle to calm the House down.
2.03 pm: Mayawati slams BJP, will she vote with the govt?
Minutes after Jaitley urged the opposition to ‘vote with one voice’ and defeat the government’s motion of FDI in retail, BSP supremo Mayawati stood up and slammed the BJP, saying that Sushma Swaraj’s speech in the Lok Sabha was a case of ‘sour grapes’ and causing the BJP to erupt in protest.
“We strongly condemn what Sushma Swaraj said about our party in Lok Sabha”, she said. Sushma yesterday alleged that the SP, BSP walkout was due to ‘fear of the CBI’.
This stand by Maywati is significant not just for the controversy value. If the BSP votes with the government, it will give it that final push over the line, and help it defeat the opposition motion.
Chairman of the house Hamid Ansari tried to restore order shouting “We do not follow the procedures of the other house nor are we influenced by them. We cannot create a disruption in this house over something that was said in the other house. Two wrongs cannot make a right.
He reads out a 2005 ruling saying, “You cannot quote the proceedings of the other house in this house”. Some angry BJP MPs are still shouting, but Mayawati has resumed speaking.
1.42 pm: Jaitley urges government to roll back policy
Arun Jaitley finally wraps up his lengthy speech with an articulate appeal to the government to roll back FDI in multi-brand retail. “The arrogance of power may persuade you to be rigid, but please be humble. We beseech you to reconsider”, he said.
He also appeals to the opposition to vote with ‘one voice’ to defeat the motion. “The government know that this policy is harmful to this country. Remember nominated members represent the conscience of the country. The government knows this policy is bad for the country. This is not the time to thank the government for your nominations, but think of the people of the country”, he says.
1.20 pm: Jaitley points out ‘fundamental flaw’ in FDI policy
Arun Jaitley is now launching a direct attack on the government’s claims that introducing FDI in multi-brand retail would elimnate middle men, saying that what would happen would be the creation of ‘Super middle men’ in the form of Walmart, Tesco’s and Carrefour.
He also launches an attack on Commerce Minister Anand Sharma asking why it is being left up to the states to implement, saying that it ought to be a subject that the centre should deal with since FDI is not a state list subject. ”
“You left the decision on FDI to states. Why? You just wanted to add a sweetener” said Jaitley, adding that this was a fundamental flaw in the government strategy.
He then goes on to say that the entire government debate is based on deception. “You create a horror story, say we dont have cold storage and hand it over to foreigners”, he says.
1.03 pm: Jaitley says FDI will collapse manufacturing sector and make India a nation of traders
Jaitley says that reforms are needed in the manufacturing sector before India can introduce FDI in multi-brand retail, and warns that India will become a nation of ‘sales boys and sales girls’
“The direct impact if you implement this without manufacturing sector reforms, is that what used to be a manufacturing nation will be a nation of traders. We will have stores owned by the Americans, French, and British, selling Chinese products and India will become a nation of sales boys and girls”, he said.
Jaitley added that the crucial difference between Walmart entering India and entering China, was that in China, 95 percent of what it sold was already manufactured in China. “But India can’t follow China, we don’t have the same model. When people start wearing shirts, trousers manufactured outside your country, you know your manufacturing sector will collapse.”, he says.
12.53 pm: Jaitley slams ‘lame duck’ government
Leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley has taken the floor and immediately resumes the ‘minority government’ attack that was introduced by Maitreyan when he introduced the motion.
“You are dependent on support. You are a lame-duck government. And this was proved in the Lok Sabha yesterday. When you are 18 short of majority, then you cannot run the government as you please”, he rails.
“You cannot touch the 272 mark in Lok Sabha – you will need support and help. And whenever you need help, you have to compromise and pay a price.”
And on the subject of FDI, Jaitley creates an uproar by saying, “ Just because some countries have allowed it, does it mean we will also do it?” to which Commerce Minister Anand Sharma stands up to explain that the government’s stand has been consistent in the WTO.
Jaitley’s intriguing reply? “I have no problems with the stand Mr Kamal Nath took as Commerce Minister on FDI, but I have serious problems with the stand Mr Anand Sharma has taken. And yes there is a difference, and I will explain it”.
12.44 pm: ‘We cannot look at the future from the prison of the past’
And as Kumar wraps up his speech, out comes the poetry. “There are moments when all of us have to rise against partisan politics. We cannot look at the future from the prison of the past”, he says, adding that he ‘implored’ the house to vote for the motion.
Kumar adds that India is no longer a fledgling economy and knows how to safeguard our interests. “We are no banana republic”, he says.
Kumar also attempted to debunk the perception that Walmart would consume and destroy local retail shops and farmers saying that even in China, where it has been operating for many years, Walmart only accounts for around 5 percent of the retail market in the country.
“The impact from Walmart there has been only beneficial so far”, he says.
12.33 pm: Ashwani Kumar opens government defence of FDI
Law Minister Ashwani Kumar rises to begin the government defence of FDi and repeats the government stand that the opposition to FDI was political and “perhaps not rooted in conviction”. He then takes a defiant stand, saying “ There are moments in a life of a nation where certain decisions are taken – we did what is right by our conscience. We may be wrong, but that doesn’t mean we won’t move forward. We are doing what the people of India expected from us”
Kumar’s speech is not as fiery or as entertaining as that of Maitreyan, choosing instead to take a measured and careful approach, choosing his words carefully and pacing his speech slowly. He painstakingly explains that a number of major farmers unions are not opposed to the measure because they know FDI will benefit them, adding that it would also benefit smaller traders.
“The existing infrastructure and storage system are not adequate for the farmers. Through investment, FDI will have a positive impact”, he said.
12.21 pm: Minority UPA govt wants us to experience FDI ‘Kolaveri’ first hand
So popular culture meets politics in this FDI debate. As Maitreyan begins winding up his speech moving the motion against FDI, he uses the Tamil word ‘Kolaveri’ (meaning murderous rage) made popular by the Danush song to describe the negative impact that introducing FDI would cause.
He also has nothing but contempt for the government’s arguments in favour of introducing FDI in multi-brand retail, calling them “unproved assertions at best and damned lies at worst. We dont want to learn from the mistakes of others”.
And of course there is a special attack reserved for the AIADMK’s arch rival the DMK , with Maitreyan criticising their ‘double face’ and saying that the people in TN that they claim to represent are ‘watching them’. This predictably leads to a huge ruckus in the DMK benches with MPs including Kanimozhi leaping to their feet and shouting him down.
“I didn’t mention any names!” says a bemused Maitreyan to the speaker who told him not to name people. “They have guilty minds”.
12.09 pm: Maitreyan introduces FDI motion in Rajya Sabha
V Maitreyan of the AIADMK introducing the FDI motion in the Rajya Sabha begins on a combative mood, calling the measure an ‘anti-people policy by the minority UPA government. He also reiterates the oft quoted Lok Sabha argument that the government did not hold any consultations with political parties despite promising to do so, and is also quoting the Prime Minister’s speech opposing FDI in 2004. “Dr Manmohan Singh opposed FDI when he was in opposition, today he is the prime mover”, he said.
Maitreyan also slammed the BSP and SP for ‘bailing out’ the government in the Lok Sabha yesterday, and read out an earlier statement by the party that opposed FDI. Mayawati however looks utterly unmoved.
11.56 am: Dissenting MPs that could influence the FDI vote
The government is struggling to juggle the numbers given the opinion stacked against FDI in multi-brand retail. However there are a few dissenting MPs who could be significant
Upendra Kushwaha – Has been suspended from the JD(U) and faces expulsion pending a hearing in the privilege committee. The whip still applies to him because he is not expelled, but at this point he has nothing to lose.
Ram Jethmalani: Suspended from the BJP recently, will this senior lawyer vote against the party?
Amar Singh: Expelled and unattached, Singh has already said that both he and his friend Priywada will vote with the government.
Pyare Mohan, Vashisht Narain Singh – likely to vote either way.
11.35 am: FDI debate in Rajya Sabha scheduled for noon
The all important debate on retail FDI will take place at noon, with the motion already tabled by the opposition. It is an open secret that the government will struggle for numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
As things stand right now, the government is woefully short of numbers in the upper house and are likely to lose, and have three increasingly far fetched options:
* Get half a dozen MPs from smaller parties to abstain
* Convince the BSP to vote with the government
* Hope that all smaller parties vote with the government
The Samajwadi Party has already said that it will not vote with the government, and the TMC has said that Lok Sabha style ‘match-fixing’ will not be allowed to happen.
11.22 am: Lok Sabha adjourned till 12
The Lok Sabha has been adjourned till noon following an uproar over Babri mosque demolition issue. 06 December 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the demolition of the ancient mosque in Ayodhya. Meanwhile the FDI debates in the Rajya Sabha have been scheduled for noon.
11.06 am: Jaitley says Govt will use SP, BSP to disrupt politics
Leader of the opposition Arun Jaitley says that the opposition is expecting the government to use the SP and BSP to disrupt the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha to save itself from the embarrassment of losing the vote on multi-brand FDI. “As far as the past track record of these two parties is concerned, they are extremely pliable as far as the government is concerned. When it comes to the crux, these two have a record of bailing the government out.”, he said in an interview with CNN-IBN.
Jaitley went on to allege that all the disruptions in the upper house of Parliament this session had been caused by the two parties on some pretext or the other, and were being encouraged by the government because they did not have the numbers to win a vote on FDI.
10.43 am: D Raja, Maitreyan move motion against FDI in RS
D Raja from the CPI and V Maitreyan from the AIADMK have moved the motion against FDI in multi-brand retail in the Rajya Sabha. The opposition is widely expected to win a vote on the issue, although there is some speculation that the house will be disrupted and not allowed to run.
Speaking to CNN-IBN Maitreyan said, “whether debate will go to vote we don’t know. The opposition is prepared for any eventuality including disruption of the house. If the arithmetic is clear, the opposition will will win”.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley will open the debate.
The language of the motion in the Rajya Sabha is expected to be different to the one which was debated and voted on in the Lok Sabha. It was reportedly felt that the language of the motion adopted in the Lok Sabha would not be appropriate in this case, as the legislature cannot recommend or direct the executive to do something.
In the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj’s motion ‘recommended’ that the decision be withdrawn. While drawing up the new motion, it was pointed out the legislature could only approve/disapprove a government decision. FDI in multi-brand retail was passed as an executive decision in the cabinet.
9.30 am: Can the government win the FDI vote in the Rajya Sabha?
The government cleared its first FDI hurdle in Parliament when it won the vote in the Lok Sabha 253 – 218 yesterday, but that was always a battle they expected to win. The sterner, though only symbolic, test will come today in the upper house of Parliament, when the motion will be taken up for debate and discussion under rule 168.
Unlike in the Lok Sabha, the government does not have the numbers in the Rajya Sabha. Also the SP and BSP, which are giving the government outside support, are being very unpredictable in the upper house. Both parties walked out of the house before the debate in the Lok Sabha yesterday, paving the way for a government win.
A mere walkout will not be sufficient for the government in the Rajya Sabha though. Unlike in the Lok Sabha, where abstaining would help the government clear the numbers test, the UPA will need the direct support of one of the UP outfits to score a certain win.
The absence of the BSP and the SP will reduce the strength of the upper house to 220, leaving the opposition with a very slight majority. The opposition already has 110 votes, pushing the government into a situation where the absence of even one of its members can lead to a politically embarrassing defeat.
However senior SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav has already said that the party will vote against the motion in the Rajya Sabha, while BSP supremo Mayawati said that her party would decide only upon hearing the government’s arguments.
The BSP, with 15 members, can tilt the scales decisively.
Despite this however, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said she was confident that the government would win this vote as well.