M A I N   N E W S

Left, Right slam FDI, press PM for rollback
* Debate rages on in LS for over 4 hours
* Fiery Sushma brings motion against FDI, gets SP, BSP backing
Aditi Tandon/TNS

who said what

Sushma Swaraj, BJP
Sushma Swaraj, BJPHum aapko hara ke jeetna nahin chahte, hum aapko mana ke jeetna chahte hai (We don't want the rollback by defeating you. We want the rollback by convincing you)
Mulayam Singh Yadav, SP
Mulayam Singh Yadav, SPThese people (the BJP) are very smart. FDI won't help you politically and they (the BJP) will come to power. Roll it back or hold it for two years. Sonia-ji…remember your surname. Don't forget swadeshi
Kapil Sibal, telecom Minister
Kapil Sibal, telecom MinisterFDI for the CPM means Foreign Direct Ideology. And the BJP must explain why they have changed their stand on FDI
T K S Elangovan (DMK)
T K S Elangovan (DMK)
It is the need of the hour to save the financial condition of states. So, we do not want to let you down. Secondly, we do not want to join the Opposition, we do not want to join the BJP. We are not neutral. We are against FDI

New Delhi, December 4
Voices of dissent far outnumbered voices of support in the Lok Sabha which today debated for four-and-a -half hours the government’s controversial decision to permit 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail sector.

By the end of round one, which BJP’s firebrand leader Sushma Swaraj initiated in her trademark aggressive style demolishing the government’s defence of the decision, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a heavy take-home message not just from the Opposition but also friends like the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the DMK - FDI is not good for the nation.

The depth of these assertions will, however, be tested tomorrow when the motion, moved by Swaraj under Rule 184 today, is put to vote. Though the DMK said that it would support the UPA in the vote despite being opposed to FDI, the SP and the BSP were silent. Swaraj’s motion reads, “I move that the government rolls back its decision to permit 51 per cent FDI in multi brand retail.”

At least in verbal opposition to FDI today, the BJP and Left had generous support with the lone voice in favour being that of Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal whom the Congress had fielded to defend the line that FDI is pro-farmer, pro-consumer, pro-growth and pro-employment. Sibal did well to counter Swaraj’s fierce contentions but not well enough to inspire the Opposition or even allies.

Just when he had finished to a thunderous applause led by none other than UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav rebutted, “We know you are a great lawyer. But no matter what you say, FDI is not in national interest. It’s a fraud on India and will bring 20 crore people on roads. It is against Gandhi’s philosophy of ‘swadeshi’.”

Mulayam went ahead to caution Sonia against rolling out FDI and asked the PM to stay the decision for two years and gauge support for it. “These people (the BJP) are very smart. FDI won’t help you politically and they (the BJP) will come to power. Roll it back or hold it for two years. Sonia ji…remember your surname. Don’t forget swadeshi,” Mulayam admonished the UPA.

Clearly, Sibal’s argument (that the government’s decision was an enabling provision which gave states the freedom to open up to FDI or not) failed to cut ice with the Opposition. BSP leader Dara Singh Chauhan also decided to toe Swaraj’s line on FDI.

“We have not been able to give our farmers roads and electricity and we are talking FDI. Bring FDI in power, irrigation and aviation. The government is saying people will be employed but I see FDI as a conspiracy to take away the little money the poor have. It is an insult to Gandhi’s nationalist line,” Chauhan said.

If that was less, DMK’s TKS Elangovan openly rejected FDI, though he was honest enough to confess that his party would not vote against the UPA because the two allies were “brothers” and UPA could not be subjected to a “full body scan for a problem in the hand”.

Earlier initiating the debate, Swaraj questioned PM’s intentions behind pushing a move the rest of the world was rejecting. “We are afraid this decision also may have roots in corruption. Walmart, the world’s largest supermarket, is investigating bribery charges against its officials in India and has suspended six people.” Recalling PM’s statement that it was time for big bang reforms and he would go down fighting, she said, “Fight for the poor not rich, fight for your own people, not foreigners.”

Sushma’s speech was structured to appeal to the common man as she told the PM to bring FDI in infrastructure but leave the sale of “daal and chawal” to Indians. She questioned government’s claim that FDI was pro-consumer saying it would create a monopoly and read a 2008 declaration of EU Parliament which said supermarkets were forcing farmers to sell below cost price.

“If one apple in the pack is rotten, Walmart will return your entire consignment,” she told Commerce Minister Anand Sharma who hails from Shimla. Building an argument that China would benefit from FDI in India as supermarkets source 82% raw materials from China, she read out a December 6, 2002 letter of the PM where he assured a concerned party that the NDA Government was not planning to bring FDI.

“What made you change your mind?” she asked the PM - a question she was later asked by Sibal who read documents to show that the BJP supported FDI in retail in 2002 and again in 2004 but changed its mind later.

numbers game: likely scenarios

Lok Sabha 544 members

Need 273 to win vote

UPA and small parties 261

  • If SP (22) and BSP (21) vote with the govt, UPA’s strength goes up to 304, way past the half-way mark
  • If 43 members of SP and BSP abstain, House strength comes down to 501. UPA needs 252 to win, has 261
  • If SP (22) abstains and BSP (21) votes with the UPA, House strength comes down to 522. UPA needs 262 to win, has 282
  • If Trinamool Congress (19), SP (22) and BSP (21) abstain, House strength comes down to 482, UPA needs 241 to win, has 261
  • If 43 members of SP and BSP vote with the Opposition, its strength goes up to 326. The UPA will be defeated.

No separate debate on FEMA

Earlier, Opposition BJP and Left parties demanded separate debates with voting on FDI in retail and related amendments to Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) rules in Lok Sabha, but it was vociferously opposed by the government and rejected by Speaker Meira Kumar. The demand for separate discussion and voting was raised by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and supported by CPM leader Basudeb Acharia. The Speaker ruled that the debate on FDI and FEMA will be held together after which vote can take place separately tomorrow.

FDI Debate Sidelights

Arhtiya trouble

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj was in trouble after she rose in defence of the arhtiyas during the debate. “Arhtiyas help farmers when they need help, lend them money for daughters’ weddings. Arhtiyas are traditional ATMs of farmers,” she said. Later, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal slammed her for supporting “middlemen” and said: “You must decide whether you are on the side of the farmers or of the middlemen.” Sushma reacted by saying she never said “middlemen” and was only referring to “arhtiyas”.

Pill for Oppn!

Punjab MP from Gurdaspur Partap Singh Bajwa interrupted Sibal, who said three of the top 10 pharma firms in the world were Indian. Bajwa stood in his chair and remarked: “If three of these firms are Indian, why can’t you arrange a pill for the Opposition so it can understand the real intent behind the FDI?”

Sibal vs Sushma

Sibal, while punching holes in Sushma Swaraj’s opposition to the FDI, said she spoke with such ease and eloquence that she made wrong things look right. “I was surprised to hear you say that 30 per cent local procurement clause for foreign direct investors wanting to enter India was a myth and would not be possible under the WTO rules. The fact is the FDI is a service under the WTO rules and is not bound by the clause you referred to.”

Left backs TMC

The CPI backed its traditional rival the Trinamool Congress after TMC leader Saugata Roy alleged that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, formerly on the board of supermarket chain Walmart, had an interest in pushing the FDI in multi-brand retail in India. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid took objection to the naming of a foreign dignitary in Parliament without giving a notice to the Speaker. While Speaker said she would examine Roy’s speech, CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta said in Lok Sabha: “Saugata Roy is well within his right to name Clinton. The Foreign Minister is getting unnecessarily sentimental.”

Mulayam’s advice

SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav admonished the Prime Minister saying the UPA should roll back its decision on the FDI to keep the BJP out of power. “These people are very smart and will come to power if you do not roll it back. People like us will either take your support or give you support,” Mulayam said.





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