M A I N   N E W S

Govt wins FDI vote in Lok Sabha as SP, BSP abstain
Total strength: 545
MPs present: 471 Majority mark: 236 For: 253, Against: 218
Tribune News Service

Mulayam Singh
Mulayam Singh


New Delhi, December 5
Decks were cleared today for the entry of the world’s largest multinational departmental stores into India’s booming retail market with the Lok Sabha approving the government’s decision to permit 51 per cent Foreign Direct Investment in the multi-brand retail sector.

Despite leaders of 14 parties represented by 282 MPs opposing FDI during the two-day heated debate, the UPA Government won the critical vote on the issue with 253 members voting against the Opposition motion seeking to reject FDI and only 218 MPs voting for it. In a House with a total strength of 545, 471 MPs were present during the vote this evening, making 236 the half-way majority mark for UPA.

The 22 MPs of Samajwadi Party and 21 MPs of Bahujan Samaj Party saved the day for the government by walking out before voting.

Though both contended they didn’t want to be seen voting alongside a communal BJP, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, initiator of the anti FDI motion under Rule 184, slammed them saying, “This debate was not about secularism or communalism. It was about the livelihoods of 24 crore Indians who profess different religions but depend on retail for bread and butter. Muslims will be the most hit by FDI. Let the country judge who said what and did what.”

Importantly, during the marathon debate, only four parties — Congress, NCP, RJD and RLD (represented by 224 MPs) supported FDI — a fact Swaraj later used to ask the PM to rollback the decision. “The overwhelming sense of this House and through this House of the country is anti-FDI. This is the real consensus. We appeal to you to withdraw your decision.”

Post-appeal, the anti-FDI motion fell. So did the modification Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy had moved to the amendment in the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, which the RBI effected in October this year. This modification was defeated with 254 MPs voting against it as against 224 voting for it.

A jubilant Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could not have asked for more and said upon UPA’s victory: “The move to bring FDI in multi-brand retail has the approval of this House.”

Despite being a Rajya Sabha member, the PM was present in the Lower House for the vote that would power his reform agenda. He had recently said, “The time has come for big bang reforms. We will go down fighting if we must.”

But today’s victory didn’t come easy. Coalition chief Sonia Gandhi was engaged in constant conversation with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath till the time of the vote, when he finally handed her a note assuring her of the numbers.

Earlier in defence of FDI, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma slammed the Opposition’s charges that there were no consultations on the issue despite former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee assuring the House on December 7, 2011 that FDI would remain on hold till a consensus emerged.

“Consensus does not equal unanimity. The Government consulted all stakeholders from farmers, consumer bodies, food processing unit organisations to political parties and state CMs on FDI,” Sharma said, responding to Opposition’s charges that the UPA disregarded the assurance to stay FDI till further consensus that former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee gave to the House last December.

“I wrote to political party leaders and CMs. Eleven CMs supported FDI; seven rejected it and three wanted more time. Therefore, we notified a policy that enabled states to decide if they wanted FDI.

Had I engaged over and over again with leaders on the same issue, they would have called me crazy,” Sharma said, adding he had met chief ministers of Punjab, Odisha and West Bengal to discuss FDI and since they were also respective party leaders, he didn’t hold separate meetings with them as party leaders.

The government also allayed the Opposition’s fears that foreign retailers would indulge in predatory pricing. “Our laws will not permit that,” Sharma said, adding that any player would have to invest $100 billion to come in and source at least 30 per cent materials from the local micro industry.

The government also cited Cabinet documents to argue that the BJP had supporting 100 per cent FDI way back in 2000, a point BJP rebutted saying it was a mere proposal, not a decision. BJP’s Murali Mamohar Joshi earlier argued against Sibal’s contentions to say, “The BJP manifesto of 2009 actually rejects FDI in multi-brand retail.”

In a debate that saw 22 MPs of 18 parties, SP and BSP leaders cut a sorry figure today after they walked out. SP Chief Mulayam Singh and BSP president Mayawati were under attack from BJP’s Sushma Swaraj who said, “Mulayamji said yesterday said that had Gandhi, Lohia and Jaiprakash been around, FDI would have never come. I say had Mulayamji voted with us, FDI would have never come.”

She also called the BSP bluff on the issue of secularism saying, “When Mayawatiji wants a vote from us on Bill for quotas in SC/ST promotions, we are secular. When we want a vote from her on a national issue, we are communal.”

The debate also saw the participation of Gurdas Dasgupta, Praful Patel, Harsimrat Badal, Lalu Yadav, Dewe Gowda and Deependra Hooda.





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