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Advantage UPA: SP, BSP walk out before voting on FDI

Giving advantage to the UPA, Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party members walked out of Lok Sabha during the debate on FDI in retail... LS disrupted over Lalu's 'jamhoore','Nescafe' remarks

delhi Updated: Dec 05, 2012 19:10 IST

Giving advantage to the UPA, Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party members walked out of Lok Sabha during the debate on FDI in retail.

SP and BSP support the UPA II from outside and has 22 and 21 members respectively.

Government has neglected the interest of farmers and small traders by deciding on FDI in multi-brand retail, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh alleged after his party MPs staged a walkout of the Lok Sabha ahead of the voting on the motion.

"We walked out because the government has neglected the interest of farmers and small traders," SP chief Mulayam Singh told reporters.

Asked why SP lawmakers walked out instead of voting against the motion, he said "this was the party's decision. The party has decided to stage walk out rejecting the move."

When it was pointed out that SP's decision has helped the government, he said "whatever the party has decided we do that exactly."

Expressing concern over the fate of farmers and small traders after FDI in retail, Yadav said the "interest of five crore small traders and 20 crore farmers and their families were sacrificed by the government's decision. That is why we have walked out."

Earlier, the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail was furiously debated in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday with the opposition lashing out at the move as the government, confident of its numbers, appealed to all parties to vote in its favour. All the while, focus remained on which way the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) would vote.

Till late afternoon, as the debate on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail continued in the lower house for the second day, the stand of the SP and the BSP was still not clear. Both parties prop the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) from outside.

The government, which appealed to all parties to vote in favour of its move and overcome the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) opposition, could draw some consolation from the SP that said it was against FDI in retail but would not do anything to trouble the government.

Ruckus over Lalu's remarks

The Lok Sabha was Wednesday adjourned briefly following verbal clashes between Rashtriya Janata Dal (RLD) chief Lalu Prasad and Bharatiya Janata Party members.

As soon as Lalu Prasad stood up to participate in the debate on FDI in multi-brand retail, BJP members created a ruckus.

An agitated Lalu Prasad addressed BJP members as "jamhoore" (side-kicks), which led to protests by BJP members.

Lok Sabha deputy speaker Karia Munda, after failing to restore order, then adjourned the house briefly.

As the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) appealed to all parties to vote in favour of its move and defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), some consolation came from the SP that said it was against foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail but would not do anything to trouble the government.

Both the BSP and the SP support the government from outside.

"Netaji (SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav) has already made his position clear on the issue - that he is against FDI. Today, after the reply of the government, the Samajwadi Party will decide what to do at the time of the voting. We will not do anything to trouble the government," SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav told a news channel.

'Rollback FDI decision'

Urging the government to reconsider its decision on foreign investment in retail, NDA convenor and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav Wednesday said in the Lok Sabha that the UPA may win the battle in the house but the policy would have long-term impact.

"You may win this battle... but the future generations will not pardon us," the opposition leader said ahead of the vote on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail, betraying a hint of uneasiness about the outcome.

"You should reconsider the decision," Sharad Yadav said, while gesturing at union minister Kapil Sibal.

The JD-U leader said the opposition's intent was not to destabilise the government but press it to withdraw FDI in retail.

"If we wanted to destabilise the government, we would have supported the no confidence motion brought in by the Trinamool Congress earlier in the winter session. Now their leaders are not talking to us," said Sharad Yadav.

"We are opposing FDI to save the country... Wal-Mart is here here only for profit," he said. "This is against the poor of the country... and you are forcing it."

'Will take fight to streets'

Asserting that FDI was not in the interest of the country, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on Wednesday said it would take its fight on the issue to the streets.

"We will not let Wal-Mart enter our country so easily, we will oppose it. We know the government will not let us win here, but we will take the fight from Parliament to the streets and will hold protests across the nation against FDI," CPI-M MP Basudeb Acharia said during the Lok Sabha debate on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail.

Addressing the House on day two of the debate, Acharia said the government must do a rethink on the issue that would further increase inflation.

"FDI is not in the interest of our country, farmers and retail sector. I urge the government to reconsider and rethink," he said.

Acharia said international experience showed that FDI did not benefit either farmers or consumers.

"Small-scale industries were wiped off in countries that allowed FDI in retail. FDI will further increase inflation," he said.

'UPA ready to sacrifice country'

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 UPA 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 will be a "giant company, which will manipulate market and price".

'Relevant factors considered before allowing FDI'

Amidst uproar in Parliament over allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, the government on Wednesday said relevant factors have been taken into account before allowing foreign retailers to open stores in India, to ensure investors are protected irrespective of who comes to power.

"Government has taken all relevant factors into account, in regard to permitting foreign direct investment (FDI), up to 51 per cent, in multi-brand retail trade," commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

He said FDI policy is incorporated in the Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or issue of security by a person resident outside India) Regulations, 2000.

"FDI is made in accordance with the investment regime in force at a point in time, which can normally not be amended with retrospective effect," he added.

Sharma was replying to a specific question on whether the Centre has considered "the possibility that government in a state may have differing views on this policy decision, which may create a situation wherein established investors may have to pull out in case of a change in government".

The minister also also said the policy in the sector is "only an enabling policy" and the state governments are free to take their own decisions in regard to its implementation.

Establishment of the retail sales outlets is to be undertaken in compliance with applicable state/union territory laws/regulations, such as the Shops and Establishments Act, he added.

The much-talked about debate on FDI in retail in the Lok Sabha yesterday saw SP and BSP joining the Opposition in slamming the government over it but remaining ambivalent on voting today even as UPA ally DMK vowed not to rock the boat despite its opposition to the policy.

In a reply to an another question on the issue, Sharma said intensive consultations with stakeholders, including traders' associations, consumers organisations, farmers' representatives and associations, small and medium enterprises' associations and representatives and food processing industry representatives were undertaken.

"On balance, the discussions generally indicated support for the policy subject to the introduction of adequate safeguards. Taking into consideration the concerns expressed during the process of consultation, appropriate safeguards have been incorporated in the policy," he said.

He added as part of the stakeholder consultations, the matter was also taken up with the state governments.

'Number game in Lok Sabha'

In the Lok Sabha, the Congress-led UPA has the numbers to carry the day.

The UPA has 245 members in the House, including 206 of the Congress 18 of the DMK and 9 of the Nationalist Congress Party. The count of parties supporting UPA from outside is 55, including 22 of the SP and 21 of the BSP. This takes the tally to 300, much above the half way mark of 273 in the 544-member house.

The National Democratic Alliance has 150 seats, including 115 of the BJP and 20 of the JD-U.

Former UPA partner Trinamool Congress (19 members) is expected to vote against FDI in retail.

The five Left parties have 24 seats, including 16 of the Communist Party of India- Marxist.

The NDA, Left and Trinamool numbers add up to 193.

Other parties like the Biju Janata Dal (14) and the AIADMK (9) together have 36 members and are expected to be divided on the issue.

Even if these parties vote against the government, the opposition numbers add up to 229, much below the half way mark of 273.

There are nine Independent members and they could go either way.

Even if either the SP or the BSP or both abstain or walk out, there would still be 257 votes in the government's favour, sources said.

(With inputs from IANS, PTI)