India is set to receive its first foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail by the end of this month, more than a year after the government allowed global retailers to set up deep-discount stores in the country in a politically sensitive decision.
"The first FDI in multi-brand retail should come before the New Year," commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma told HT in a wide ranging interview in which he described BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as a nominee of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) without a "vision for the future."
Sharma also blamed "the shrill negative narrative" by investment banks for hurting perceptions about the Indian economy.
"Of course," the minister said when asked if believed these reports were politically motivated. "We know how these are done."
Global investment banks and brokerage houses have said that a BJP victory during the Lok Sabha elections could lead to a strong market rally.
Japanese brokerage and research firm Nomura and US investment banking major Goldman Sachs have both come out with reports saying a stable Narendra Modi-led BJP government could boost investor sentiments.
In September last year, India allowed upto 51% FDI in multi-brand retail but not a single superstore has so far set shop in India.
Sharma did not disclose the name of the global chain that is likely to announce its foray into India’s retail sector, but said the investment will happen "very soon."
The BJP is opposed to allowing any foreign investment in the retail sector arguing that it would put the livelihood of neighbourhood grocery stores and street vendors at risk.
"I don’t think Modi has done anything which can be called as constructive engagement and vision for the future. You must request Modi to hold a press conference in every state capital to explain what his vision on foreign policy, on economic policy, what is vision for the future of India," Sharma said.
"The (2014 Lok Sabha) elections will eventually be between the political ideology of the Indian National Congress which stands for a democratic and secular India, and the ideology of the RSS," Sharma said.
"The BJP is only the political front of the RSS. Modi is the nominee of the RSS chosen by Nagpur. It is for the country to see and let’s see, " he said.
On the Congress’ Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 elections, Sharma said: "That view will be taken by the party. I am not going to pre-judge it."
On the Delhi Assembly election results and the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Sharma said: "These are setbacks, huge setbacks and we have to draw the lessons. We have to objectively analyse what has gone wrong and that exercise has not been completed yet."