New Delhi : Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav on Tuesday kept the UPA Government guessing and on tether hooks on his party's support from outside on the issue of allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail.
Standing up in Parliament during a debate on the issue under Rule 184 (of the Rules of Business) that entails voting on a government policy, Mulayam, recalling past negative instances of allowing FDI in retail, said he was not in favour of allowing its re-entrance, as it would hurt the interest of the farmers'.
He was speaking after impassioned speeches against and for allowing FDI in retail by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal respectively.
Yadav appealed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi by saying, "There is Gandhi in your name...remember what he said...you are forgetting Swadeshi and getting in Videshi".
He also took on Sibal on the need for allowing FDI in retail in only in 53 cities of the country, and that too only in cities that have a population of over 10 lakhs.
"If you are convinced that this policy will help the people, why introduce it only towns with population over 10 lakhs? It is because these big global supermarkets do not want to go to smaller towns where they won't be able to earn as much," Yadav claimed amidst a thumping of tables by the anti-FDI section in the Lok Sabha.
Earlier, Swaraj began the debate by saying that allowing FDI in retail would hurt small retailers. She also accused the government of failing to build a political consensus despite promising to take along all parties on all major reforms.
"We don't want to win by defeating you, we want to win by convincing you," she said.
She also criticized Sonia Gandhi for claiming credit for achievements under UPA rule. Did the latter mean that all other governments before the UPA had failed in this endeavour, she asked.
Sibal took the fight into the opposition camp by exposing its double speak on the issue of FDI, which was apparently visible in the BJP's manifestos of 2004 and 2009.
He also said that it was unconstitutional for the opposition to demand a unilateral and across the board suspension/withdrawal of FDI in multi-brand retail. He said that states wanting it, should be allowed to do so freely.
The BSP, too, has played hard to get, with party chief Mayawati indicating that her vote on FDI is linked to the passing of a bill that provides reservation for scheduled castes and tribes in promotions for government jobs.
The BSP reportedly wanted the quota bill to be passed first, and the government had duly listed it in the Rajya Sabha today. Mayawati's BSP could abstain or, if satisfied with the government's intention on the quota Bill, even vote in favour of it, the government's floor managers reckon.
If the BSP and SP both abstain in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, the majority mark will come down from 273 to 251. The Congress and its UPA allies have 261 MPs. Anti-FDI MPs add up to 219. The motion will be put to vote in the Lok Sabha tomorrow. The Rajya Sabha will begin debating the issue on Thursday and will vote on Friday.