Highlights of Lok Sabha debate on FDI in retail

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 05, 2012 15:38 hrs

The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on Wednesday walked out of the Lok Sabha before voting in the house on foreign investment in multi-brand retail.

"This government is anti-farmer," SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said.

With the two parties walking out, the halfway mark in the house would come down.

"Five crore people in retail trade will be destroyed. This decision has ignored the interests of 20 crore farmers and their families. The decision on FDI was taken under pressure of foreign companies. This is the reason the party boycotted it," Mulayam Singh said.

Asked whether the SP's move can help the government in mustering the required numbers, he said: "This is not about helping or harming the government. The whole party and MPs had decided to stage a walkout. This was decided by the party and the SP will continue to oppose every wrong decision of the government."

Both parties support the ruling UPA from outside.

Sushma blames Mulayam for avoiding vote under CBI pressure
Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, on Wednesday alleged that Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav walked out of the upper house ahead of voting on FDI in retail because of CBI pressure.

It may be recalled that on March 1, 2007, the Supreme Court directed the CBI to probe the assets of Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family. Petitions by Yadav and his family, seeking a review of the decision, are pending since the judgment was reserved in February 2011.

The government could always apply pressure by seeking to file additional documents or pressing for an early decision on these probes.

"I wanted that everyone should have walked their talked ... how vociferously Mulayam ji had opposed FDI...if he had voted with us, FDI would not have been implemented. It is not a question of BJP, this is not a communal issue... but the problem is the issue has now become FDI vs CBI," said Swaraj.

The BSP too has CBI cases against it such as the one involving the Taj Corridor Scam case.

"When BSP wants support, they come to us, and then, we aren't communal... this dichotomy won't work," she added.

14 parties against FDI, says Sushma

Making a forceful plea against FDI in multi-brand retail, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said 14 parties had spoken out "passionately" against the issue, and the voting numbers in the Lok Sabha, with SP and BSP staging a walkout, would not reflect true sense of the house.

"Fourteen parties have spoken against allowing FDI... The number of their MPs works out to 282, that means 10 more than the halfway mark. Only four parties are for it -- Congress, NCP, RJD and RLD. That works out to 224 in favour," said Sushma Swaraj, concluding the debate in the Lok Sabha.

"However, when the voting happens, the votes will disappear; the numbers will disappear," she said, alluding to the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, who had spoken against FDI in retail during the debate but walked out ahead of the voting.

 "I want that future generations should see what was said in the house, and not go by the voting verdict," she said.

"Today's discussion is on the livelihood, the bread and butter of 20 crore people," the BJP leader said, adding that the economic move would hurt Muslim traders.

"The Sachar Committee has said FDI in retail will hurt Muslim traders."

She appealed to members to think carefully before pressing the button for voting and think of the farmers and small traders whose livelihoods would be hurt.

Government deliberately disrupting Rajya Sabha: BJP

The government and its "supporting parties" were deliberately disrupting proceedings in the Rajya Sabha and it was doubtful whether they would allow a debate on foreign investment in retail, the BJP alleged on Wednesday as the upper house was adjourned for the day without any business being transacted.

"Since the very first day, the government doesn't seem to be serious about conduct of business, specially in the Rajya Sabha," leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley told reporters.

The opposition, he said, doubted if the ruling party and its supporters would allow the debate on foreign direct investment (FDI) to take place Thursday as scheduled.

"I have the suspicion that the government is unsure which way the Rajya Sabha will vote, so it is not letting the house function. We doubt they will allow the debate on FDI tomorrow (Thursday)," he said.

He said a complaint has been made to the upper house chairman and an explanation sought from Leader of the House, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"The government is deliberately trying to create an atmosphere that the house cannot function. Even when the Lok Sabha is functioning normally, the Rajya Sabha is being stalled. The whole nation is watching, not a single opposition member has trooped into the well of the house, it is government members and supporting parties that are stalling the house," he said.

The Rajya Sabha was adjourned Wednesday first due to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which took up the issue of a memorial for B.R. Ambedkar in Mumbai. At noon, after BSP members were pacified, it was the turn of Samajwadi Party (SP) members to gather near the chairman's podium, shouting slogans against reservations in promotions.

Both parties support the UPA government from outside.

Former deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha and BJP leader Najma Heptullah echoed Jaitley. "I have never seen a situation like this before. The government itself is disrupting the house," she said.

Her colleague M. Venkaiah Naidu added: "They are trying to do what they did during the Lokpal bill debate. They don't have the numbers so they are trying to disrupt the house."

The debate on FDI in retail is scheduled to start in the upper house on Thursday.

FDI in retail will help farmers: Lalu

Attacking the BJP for opposing FDI in multi-brand retail, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RLD) chief Lalu Prasad on Wednesday said foreign investment in the retail sector will help farmers get better price for their yield.

Lending emphatic support to FDI in retail, Lalu Prasad accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of double standards on the issue. He was participating in the debate in the Lok Sabha on FDI in multi-brand retail.

"Peasants in the country have stopped farming because they don't get right price for their produce. I support FDI in retail as it will help farmers," he said, inviting applause from Communications Minister Kapil Sibal.

Taking a dig at the BJP, Lalu Prasad said the party strongly supported FDI in retail in its 2002 manifesto.

"How did you support 100 percent FDI in retail in the year 2002 when you are against it now," he asked.

"They travel in imported cars and wear foreign watches but they say no to FDI in retail. I don't even keep a cellphone; these people (BJP) keep it next to their heart," he quipped.

'I am farmer's son, I understand their problems'

Congress MP from Rohtak, Deepender Hooda, on Wednesday took on the opposition, and said the UPA Government's move to allow FDI in retail will give the farmers of the country an alternative.

Hooda said that he understands very well the problems of the members of the farming community.

"I know FDI will not solve all the problems of farmers, but it gives them an option. I am the son for a farmer, I understand their problems. Do not underestimate the farmer of India? They are not fools, they will sell to the person who gives them the best price," he added.

Hooda said the BJP is opposing FDI in retail because it is a UPA Government's move, and launched a frontal attack on senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj over her claims that McDonald's buys its potatoes from outside.

"Even McDonalds was shocked at what Sushmaji said and came out with a press statement to say they buy most potatoes from India. We found out where McDonald's buys it's potatoes from - most come from Gujarat. That state has the most McDonald's stores But as soon as this potato comes out of the ground, BJP is quick to term it as American," he added.

Hooda further questioned Sushma Swaraj whether she he had exactly been to Ambala in the recent days.

"Sushmaji spoke of being from Ambala but I think she has not been to Ambala in quite some time. There are 'kirana' stores that co-exist with multi-brand retail chains... there are at least 15 stores run by Reliance, Easy Day, etc," he said.

The Congress MP pointed that it was left to the states to decide on FDI in retail, and added that this move strengthens the federal polity of this country.

Hooda charged the opposition of raising objection on every developmental move of the ruling Congress Party and cited the example of computers, Delhi Metro etc. to justify his statement.

"It may be remembered how the opposition members protested against the Bhakra Nangal dam, saying Congress will take away the electricity from the dam. Today, the same dam irrigates vast tracts both in Haryana and Punjab," Hooda said.

"The same applies to the computer technology, the Dunkel draft and now the FDI," he added.

He also asked the BJP to think on why the Congress-led Governments have ruled the country for almost 50 years in the last 60 years.

"Sushmaji said 50 of 60 years have seen Congress-led governments. I ask her to consider why the people keep voting for us... if you continue such opposition, in 2014 the people will vote for us once again," he said amid a thumping applause from the Congressmen, including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Left terms FDI vote a moral defeat for UPA govt

Despite the Centre emerging victorious on the FDI vote in the Lok Sabha, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja on Wednesday said it is a huge moral defeat for the UPA Government as 14 parties had opposed it.

"Let us see, the Rajya Sabha may be different. Because, even in Lok Sabha, it is not a very big victory. It is a very big moral defeat for the government. 14 parties opposed the government's policy, Raja told mediapersons outside Parliament.

"I am not disappointed. The margin is very small. In fact, it is a huge moral defeat for the government," he added.

Another CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta also echoed similar sentiments on the issue, saying 'it is the defeat of the government'.

"The government had no majority in the house. In order to get majority, the government has to get more than fifty percent vote, but it has got the people abstained by using the CBI, by using influence, by using issues, It was a deliberate move to make the people abstained," he added.

UPA ready to sacrifice country for Wal-Mart: CPI

The government's firm stand on bringing in FDI in multi-brand retail is a "signal to make India the most favoured destination for foreign multinationals", said CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta, slamming the move.

Dasgupta, during the parliamentary debate on the subject, accused the government of "being ready to sacrifice the country for the cause of Wal-Mart".

He caused a minor commotion in the Lok Sabha when he said that the United Progressive Alliance government had used its "political clout and resources" to ensure it wins the vote on the debate.

Shouted down by the ruling benches, Dasgupta said he "never meant money", but that the "organisational management of the political establishment is enough to organise majority in house. That is all I meant".

He added that the Communist Party of India (CPI) was "not running away from voting, but we want the country to know where the party stands, this is essential". The vote on the debate on FDI is to be held Wednesday evening. If the UPA loses the vote it will not topple the government but will cause embarrassment.

He wondered why the government had taken such a firm stand on FDI in retail, after its "faltering, hesitation earlier, now it is firm, so firm that the prime minister is even ready to sacrifice the government itself".

Dasgupta said FDI in multi-brand retail "with its political economic clout, with its huge international resources, backed by the US administration, is sure to have political and economic impact on the country".

He said Communications Minister Kapil Sibal in his defence Tuesday of the economic move had said 'look at the state of the economics' and then changed his tack after he got a look from Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

"That is the reason... the government believes the economic conditions are very grim," he said and alleged that the UPA had not come clear in parliament on its strategy on ways to tackle the economic crisis.

Dasgupta said FDI in multi-brand retail will be a "giant company, which will manipulate market and price".

Akali Dal opposes FDI in its present form

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Wednesday opposed the government's proposal to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, saying that the proposal in its present form will hand over the retailers and farmers' interest in foreign hands.

Participating in the debate in Lok Sabha, Member of Parliament (MP) of SAD, Harasimrat Kaur said that the then Finance Minster Pranab Mukherjee had said that FDI will be introduced only after a consensus among all the political parties and state governments, but the government has failed to do so.

"We are willing to support FDI, but who will support the bill which is made to sell the country's interest into the hands of foreigners. The government will have to ensure that the foreign companies will buy a certain percentage of product from our domestic producers and farmers," said Kaur.

Earlier, the Punjab government led by SAD had hinted that it may back the UPA Governments proposals to allow 51 percent FDI, saying the reform will benefit the farmers and traders as it will remove the middlemen from the cycle.

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had said that the state could welcome the move if the Centre builds a consensus and addresses the fears of farmers and small traders.

Govt is in a minority: Mamata

Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, commenting on the victory of the UPA government in the Lok Sabha by a slender margin of 35 votes on the motion on FDI today said that it was a minority government.

"The government is in a minority," Banerjee told reporters here.

In a post on Facebook, she said "The mandate today proves that the UPA-II is a minority Government. As against the majority figure of 271, based on the total strength of the House, the support was only 253, despite all attempts made by the selfish people.

"This Government has lost its credibility. They must take fresh verdict from the people," she said. PTI PKC PB PC

Reforms, pragmatism won in Lok Sabha: Govt

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Wednesday expressed delight with the government's win on FDI in retail in the Lok Sabha, saying this is a victory of reforms and a defeat of those who look at India's economy through ideologically coloured lenses.

"We hope the opposition will reconsider their position and join the government in this constructive endeavor," he added.

Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal, who had made a point by point rebuttal to all the allegations made by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj on the first day of the debate in the Lok Sabha yesterday, said it is the vote, which counts.

"I am very happy. It is the vote, which counts and majority are in favor of the government," he said.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma earlier replying to the debate said the government has been continuously consulting all the stakeholders including the chief ministers on FDI in the retail sector.

He said every state has the right and no one can deprive the right of an elected government to take important decisions.

Sharma also pointed out that several studies have shown that around 35 percent or Rs 65000 crore worth of fruits and vegetable are lost post harvest due to lack of infrastructure, cold storage and agro processing facilities.

Sushma Swaraj earlier appealed to the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision as only four out of 18 parties spoke in favour of the decision.

Sonia, PM happy over FDI vote win

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday expressed happiness over the win in Lok Sabha on allowing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multibrand retail.

"Happy about win, not worried about Rajya Sabha," Sonia Gandhi was quotes saying in media after a heated two-day-long debate ended with the UPA winning the vote on allowing 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, defeating an Opposition motion against it.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told TV channels: "FDI policy has the approval of the house."

Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, however, said it is a moral loss of the government.

"It a political victory but a moral loss," she said adding that those who did not vote and abstained were actually supporting the FDI policy.

While the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) abstained making it easier for the UPA to win, the ruling coalition got 253 votes in their favour of FDI in multi-brand retail. They needed only 236 after the walkout as the half way mark came down.

A total of 218 members cast their votes against FDI in multi-brand retail after the motion brought by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj was put to vote.

A total of 471 lawmakers were in House during the voting.

UPA also won the vote on FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) amendments by garnering 254 votes in their favour.

While Congress led UPA bailed 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 the SP are crucial for the government in Rajya Sabha.

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