Fight for poor, not MNCs: Swaraj

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 04, 2012 14:34 hrs

New Delhi: Opposing FDI in multi brand retail, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj Tuesday said the Prime Minister should fight for the poor and country and not for multinationals who would deal a body blow to small traders.

"Fight for the poor and not for the rich. Fight for the country and not for multinationals," said Swaraj at a heated debate on FDI in multi brand retail in Lok Sabha ahead of voting on the issue a day later.

"Fight for our own country and not outsiders and we would be by your side. I can assure that at the world investors' summit I will go with your and say that India is not against FDI in every sector. They can come in sectors like infrastructure," said Swaraj.

"It will be a grand occasion if the Prime Minister of India and the Leader of Opposition go together and invite them to invest in India," said Swaraj.

She said there is no need for FDI in selling rice and wheat, something that our people are doing and can do well.

Addressing the Prime Minister, Swaraj said: "So I ask you to reconsider your decision. We do not want to defeat you but make you change your view and come with us."

Uproar was witnessed in Lok Sabha over the debate on the FDI on Tuesday and all hell broke loose when leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj was speaking.

Swaraj said the government did not take the lawmakers or parties into confidence while making the decisions despite promises to do so made earlier by present President Pranab Mukherjee, who was then the Finance Minister.

Swaraj said they were stubborn over the issue because the government did not consult them.

"The government is showcasing figures, but no one knows from where those figures come," she said, and asked if companies like Wal-Mart would offer loans to farmers when they need it.

For quite some time there were shouting as she spoke and attacked the government over their claims.

Speaker Meira Kumar later pacified them and Swaraj resumed speaking.

Swaraj said China would benefit while there would be darkness in Indian homes.

While Congress led UPA would bail itself out in Lok Sabha, in Rajya Sabha it stands a crucial test since the Congress lacks adequate numbers in the upper house.

The FDI debate under Rule 168, which entails voting, is set to take place in the Rajya Sabha on Dec 6 and 7.

The support of Mayawati and her rival Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party are crucial for the government in Rajya Sabha.

 Swaraj used the debate to target Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who was present, on her statement that fastest pace of development has been witnessed by UPA-II government.

"Except for seven years, there had been Congress governments between 1952 and 2012...were you challenging the government headed by your mother-in-law (Indira Gandhi) or the one headed by your husband (Rajiv Gandhi)," she posed.

"Who were you referring to," Swaraj asked.

Gandhi shot back saying she was referring to "you" (BJP).

She said when Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi was Congress Chief Whip during NDA rule, he had brought a Calling Attention Motion terming "alleged" moves by the then government for FDI in retail as "anti-national".

She said as Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Manmohan Singh had replied to a representative of a Maharashtra trade body that government has assured Parliament that there was no plan to bring FDI in retail.

"Pradhan Mantri ji, sonch kyon badal gayi? (Mr Prime Minister, what has prompted the change of mind)," she said in the presence of Singh, who did not respond.

During her speech, there were several occasions when opposition and treasury benches were involved in verbal duels, prompting leaders like Gandhi, L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to calm tempers.

On one occasion, Leader of the House and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde took objection to a BJP member "challenging" the Speaker.

Speaker Meira Kumar asked members not to get "over excited" while participating in the discussion.

 Swaraj said the decision to allow FDI in retail was not a step towards development but a leap into a ditch of "destruction."

Referring to statements made by the government that FDI in retail would empower consumers, she said large superstores will wipe out small retailers by first dropping prices and then charging higher prices once there is no competition.

Swaraj also said claims that farmers will benefit from the move was "baseless" as the experience of the European Union shows that farmers are forced to sell their produce below production cost to large retail chains.

"A fool learns from his own experience, while a wise man learns from the experience of others," she said.

She claimed that the most likely scenario would be that retail chains would not buy products from small and medium farmers at all and supported her contention by giving the example of Pepsi in Punjab which rejected locally produced potatoes and tomatoes as being below standards.

She said even McDonalds was importing potatoes from abroad and not buying the produce locally.

"You are from the state which produces apples...a local whole-seller would take out a damaged apple and sell the consignment. But the bigger chains will reject the entire consignment. When people will come to your doorsteps with their grievances, you won't be able to help them," Swaraj told Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

The BJP leader said even US President Barack Obama is supporting the 'small business Saturday' campaign by going to small shops to support their business. 

More from Sify: