India must not imitate the development models of the West and the government must not "fool the people that foreign direct investment (FDI) into the retail sector is a panacea to solve all problems of poverty and unemployment," senior BJP leader LK Advani said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday.
Delivering the keynote address on "India's yatra into the future", Advani reiterated the BJP's firm opposition to the proposal and squarely blamed the government for the current imbroglio in Parliament.
He wanted the government to answer: "Why bring the FDI into the retail sector now? Why are we are we blindly imitating the West's model of development, knowing fully well that this model is not only unsustainable but has also landed western economies into a deep crisis?"
Advani declared that "If we want India's yatra into the future to proceed in the right direction, if crores of India's young people are to have hope in a bright future for themselves, we need an urgent course correction in policies and programmes. We need a thorough reform of the reform process"
Advani said, "How many people in our society can it benefit? Why is the government so slavishly looking at foreign investment in a sector like retail for answers to problems created by its own mismanagement of the economy such as inflation, price rise and unemployment? The UPA government is fooling people by claiming that FDI in retail will create millions of jobs and bring down inflation. All this is eye-wash."
He also said, "Shouldn't India seek its own solutions to its problems, while learning from others' positive experiences and avoiding their mistakes? Can America's and Europe's model of development be a template for India's development?"
Advani charged the Congress with "creating" a "glittering India for the rich, and gloomy India for the poor" and emphasized that "the future that India should march towards has to be a future that makes our society more egalitarian, with broadly equitable opportunities for all the 1.2 billion Indians.
Later, replying to questions on why the NDA had talked about 26% FDI in retail in 2004, Advani said it might have been mooted by a section of BJP "but by 2009, the BJP had rejected the idea."
Asked why the BJP changed its mind on FDI, he said, "the retail sector involves a lot of our people and is a huge constituency. FDI is not the right step…I am told even in the US, Walmart may be good for them and is not allowed even in cities like New York."
He held that "the government had not been able to allay the fears of millions of shop-keepers and SMEs in the country. Even the Congress party's own trade union, INTUC, has opposed the government's move. In recent decades there never has been such a total Bharat Bandh (All India Strike) as there was last Thursday in protest against government's decision."
Advani, who is NDA's chairman and president of BJP parliamentary party, admitted he was equally saddened by the stalemate in Parliament, which was due to the "attitude" of the government.
He recalled that "similar tall claims were made three years ago at the time of the Indo-US nuclear deal. It will solve the problem of India's acute power shortage, government leaders said in Parliament. I want to ask the Prime Minister: On how many new nuclear plants has work begun in the past three years? Will the government come out with a white paper on the issue?"
Referring to the scams which have rocked the UPA, Advani said the "cash-for-vote" scam in 2008 and the 2G spectrum scam stood out as India's worst cases of sleaze in high places.
Advani said, "My long experience in politics and government has convinced me that right governance is far more important than right-sounding policies. Let it be understood that good governance and corruption cannot co-exist…the cleaning up must begin from the top."
"Similarly," Advani said, "I would also like to emphasise that Democracy and Dynastic Succession also cannot co-exist.
"I am sure in theory, at least, no one would dispute the first part of the above statement. But I wish the ruling party realized the validity of the latter half as well."
Advani expressed his deep anguish that former BJP MPs and his aide, Sudheendra Kulkarni, were jailed for being "whistle blowers" in the case involving bribery of MPs to win the 2008 trust vote. As many as 19 Opposition MPs were bribed with crores and made to vote for Government, he said.
"I knew what my party's MPs intended to do by being whistle blowers. I was their leader. If I thought that their flaunting currency notes in the House would be deemed wrong doing, I would have stopped them. If the government thinks they have acted against law, I think I am a bigger wrong-doer, and I should be jailed and sent to Tihar, and not these whistle-blowers who have rendered a signal service to democracy."
More from the Summit:
Advani takes the road much travelled | 'PM or not will depend on party' | Former australian PM Howard backs proposal to sell uranium to India | 'Stated positions must change for India, Pakistan peace' | Big brother spying is new threat to democracy: Assange | 'People want effective leaders' | See special