Long-awaited vote on FDI in retail today

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 05, 2012 05:47 hrs

New Delhi: Voting will be held in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday on the Bharatiya Janata Party's motion opposing the Congress-led UPA Government's move to allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.

The voting comes a day after a heated debate took place inside the Lok Sabha with senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj leaving no stones unturned in cornering the Manmohan Singh-led UPA II Government on the FDI issue.

Initiating a discussion on FDI in the lower house under rule 184, which entails voting, Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj, on Tuesday charged the government with not consulting all stake holders despite the assurances made to the Parliament.

Citing international examples of other countries, Swaraj alleged that the decision will create massive unemployment and may harm the interest of small farmers and business people.

Communication and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal countered Swaraj's accusations point by point, saying FDI would be introduced only in 18 states and the state governments could choose whether or not to implement it.

"Initially, retail FDI will be implemented in 18 cities, and it will be foolish to say that by implementing in 18 cities, the small retailers will be in trouble," he said.

Lashing out at the BJP for making exaggerated and wrong comments on the issue, Sibal said that the government has come out with a policy that gives state governments the freedom to decide themselves whether they will or will not allow FDI in retail.

"I don't think this discussion was necessary. It is merely from a political standpoint. The government decided that FDI will be allowed in cities with a population of more than 10 lakhs - there are only 53 cities that meet this criteria," Sibal added.

Opposing the Government's decision, Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said that FDI in retail is not in the country's interest and added that it will result in more unemployment.

BSP leader Dara Singh Chauhan said that Government should not take any decision in this regard in a hurry.

"The Government should first review the impact of FDI in retail in Congress ruled States," he added.

Despite the UPA Government repeatedly expressing the confidence that it will survive the Opposition-sponsored motion, it's now counting on the support of Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which provide external support to the government.

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 Rajya Sabha will begin debating the issue on Thursday and will vote on Friday.

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's tally stands at 117 as against the magical figure of 123 for majority.

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