New Delhi, Dec 4: The Lok Sabha today witnessed a daylong debate marked by frayed tempers on the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail with Congress and BJP taking potshots at each other, and the SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav clarifying that he was against FDI in retail, but would not support the BJP’s resolution.
BSP leader Dara Singh Chauhan also opposed FDI in retail but said his party would decide tomorrow at the time of voting in Lok Sabha.
Initiating the debate, Leader of Opposition Susma Swaraj lashed out at the UPA government and beseeched the Prime Minister to withdraw the decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail.
The Congress fielded its legal eagle Kapil Sibal who said that it was the BJP which had declared in its manifestoes in 2004 and 2009 that it would allow FDI in retail.
Sibal said, Congress is for the farmers and consumers, while the BJP is for the middlemen and wholesalers.
“Even in West Bengal, the Pepsico is giving better prices to potato farmers, and the Trinamool govt is opposing Fdi in retail at the Centre”, Sibal pointed out.
Sibal took potshots at the Left and the BJP. He described the Left as based on FDI (foreign direct ideology) and the BJP as a “multi-brand party”. “Sushmaji in this competition of brands, you can easily lead in your own party”, he quipped.
Earlier Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj today lashed out at the UPA government for unilaterally taking a decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail without consulting the other parties and state governments.
In an impassioned speech, frequently disrupted by shouts from Congress benches, Swaraj appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to withdraw the decision and avoid a vote. Otherwise, Swaraj said, pointing towards the SP and BSP benches, the time has come to vote this decision down.
“The FDI will fall, this government will not fall. Let’s force the government in withdrawing this FDI decision. We are not against FDI per se, we are only opposing FDI in small retail business”, said Swaraj.
Swaraj went to the extent of offering to accompany the Prime Minister to World Investment Forums to invite FDI in other sectors like infrastructure, aviation and power, if the government agreed to her demand. “Allow our traders to run their ‘daal-chaawal’(rice-pulse) business. Our traders from Rajasthan know how to sell groceries in Assam, a trader from Bhiwani knows how to sell groceries in Asansol”, she said.
6:15 pm: Speaker Meira Kumar adjourns Lok Sabha for tomorrow morning.
5:45 pm: BSP’s Dara Singh Chauhan opposes FDI in multi-brand retail and asks Congress to first implement it in its own ruled states first. Chauhan said his party would decide on its stand at the time of voting tomorrow.
5.15 pm: Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav says, at least a big lawyer like Kapil Sibal should not support FDI in retail. Towards the end of his speech, Yadav turning towards BJP said, neither am I supporting you, and turning towards the Congress said, neither am I opposing you. “It is my personal opinion that FDI in multi-brand retail is not in the nation’s interest.
4:15 pm: Minister Kapil Sibal picks holes in Sushma Swaraj’s speech saying that it was the BJP which had promised FDi in multi-brand retail in its 2004 and 2009 manifestos. “For the first time I have heard a Leader of Opposition here speaking in favour of moneylenders”. To this, Sushma Swaraj responded: “No, I spoke about aadhatiya (grain merchants) and not sahukar (moneylenders)”.
Sibal says, India is today the world’s second largest producer of fruits and vegetables. Out of 200 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables produced, 80 million tonnes
go waste because of lack of cold chain, he said. There are presently 8 commission agents between the farmers and the market, Sibal pointed out.
Sibal said, FDI in retail means, it will be implemented only in one million plus cities, which are 53 in number. Out of this only 18 cities will get foreign retailers.
And that too, under strict rules: they must invest $ 100 billion, out which $ 50 billion must be spent on back-end infrastructure, and 30 pc of goods should be sourced from small and medium entrepreneurs.
Today, Sibal pointed out, India, after allowing FDI in automobile, has become the world’s largest auto component supplier nation.
The people of this country may not know what BJP’s policy(neeti) is, but the people know your intentions (neeyat) “, said Sibal.
3.45 pm: Sushma Swaraj winds up her speech with an impassioned plea to PM Manmohan Singh to withdraw the decision on FDI in retail. She read out a letter written by Singh as Leader of Opposition written during NDA rule to Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce saying that the then Finance Minister has promised FDI in retail trade will not be allowed.
Swaraj also took potshots at Congress leader Sonia Gandhi for her Ramlila Maidan speech in favour of FDI, in which she had reportedly said that the UPA government has done so much in such a little time.
“Do you mean to say, Manmohanji’s government has done better than the govts of your grandfather-in-law Nehru, mother-in-law Indiraji and husband Rajivji?” As Sonia Gandhi gesticulated at her saying she meant against the NDA rule, Sushma continued : “It’s the Congress which ruled 50 out of the 60 years from 1952 to 2012, and out of the 50 years, Gandhi-Nehru family ruled for 30 years. So with whom, were you comparing Manmohanji’s rule?”
Swaraj went on to say: “Our Prime Minister had mentioned we should be ready to go down fighting. Mannmohanji, you should fight for the poor, not the rich, fight for the small, not the big, fight for the country, not the multinationals”. FDI in retail trade will render 4 crore directly employed people jobless and affect 20 crore family members, said Sushma Swaraj.
2.58 pm: Congress members constantly interrupt Sushma Swaraj’s speech as she says, removal of middlemen is not the panacea of all ills. Wholesalers in rural areas act as “traditional ATMs” for farmers, they help them out whenever farmers need money.
Big foreign corporates won’t do that, she says. Swaraj says, how PepsiCo misguided Punjab farmers and rejected to take potatoes saying they were smaller in size. Even Amul founder late Verghese Kurien has opposed FDI in retail, says Swaraj.