Ruling UPA wins FDI vote in Lok Sabha after SP, BSP walkout
The opposition motion against FDI in multi-brand retail was defeated in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday after the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party MPs walked out before the voting, bailing out the Manmohan Singh government.
The Opposition motion got 218 votes in favour and 253 against with 471 members participating in the voting. The total strength of the House is 545. The House also rejected the motion seeking amendment to the rules notified by the Reserve Bank under the Foreign Exchange Management Act to enable FDI in multi-brand retail.
While 254 voted in favour of the government, 224 were against.
Members of the SP and the BSP, with a strength of 22 and 21 respectively, did not participate in the voting as they walked out alleging that interests of farmers and small retailers had been ignored.
The victory of the government after two days of heated debate was immediately hailed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. “FDI policy that we have put in place has the approval of this House (Lok Sabha),” said Dr. Singh, who is a member of the Rajya Sabha but was present during the voting in the Lower House.
This was after a gap of many years that an executive decision of the government was put to vote in Parliament.
Earlier, replying to the discussion, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma dismissed the Opposition charge that the move would hurt small traders and farmers and that the government has rushed the decision. He said the decision was not taken overnight and deliberations were held with Chief Ministers and other stake holders like association of farmers, consumer organisations and representatives of the food processing industry.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, who had moved the motion, maintained that majority of the House was against FDI in retail which was reflected in speeches of leaders of different political parties. Ms. Swaraj said going by speeches in the debate on FDI, leaders of various parties which extended support in favour of the motion and against bringing FDI in multi-brand retail had 282 votes and those against it had 224 votes. She said 22 leaders of 18 parties participated in the debate on FDI in multi-brand retail of which 14 spoke in its favour.
“I wanted the thought to be converted into vote that will be engraved in the history of Lok Sabha,” Ms. Swaraj said, lamenting that this did not seem happening as some parties like the SP and the BSP which vehemently opposed the entry of FDI in retail had already walked out to avoid voting on the issue. While seeking to reach out to wider opposition camp, she claimed it was not a vote on communal or secular lines but about the interest of the country. After the voting, she told reporters that the government “won technically but lost on moral grounds.”
The Commerce Minister said out of 21 States which responded to the Centre’s communication on the issue, 11 supported in writing the move to open multi-brand retail. Only seven States opposed the proposal, while few sought clarifications, he said, adding that he personally met Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
In the backdrop of the federal structure of the country, he said, the Centre decided to leave the final decision on States whether to allow foreign investment in retail. “No one can take away the right of an elected government to take decision”, he said adding the decision was taken after discussions with the stakeholders. “Consensus means general agreement and not unanimity,” he said.
Participating in the debate, BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said his party was for “retail democracy and not retail dictatorship” and warned that people would not tolerate such an action.
Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav speaking to reporters outside Parliament House blasted FDI in retail as a policy that is being implemented under foreign pressure and said it would not benefit the farmers in India. The SP supremo defended his party for walking out of Parliament saying the government had insulted farmers and small shops. But the walk out by his MPs finally helped the government to carry out the day in the Lok Sabha.
Apprehending that SP and BSP would bail out the UPA on FDI in retail, the opposition in Lok Sabha on Wednesday warned these parties as also DMK that history will not pardon them if they sided with the government on the issue despite opposing it during the nationwide protest. Among those who made a scathing attack on the government over the issue were members of the JD(U), CPI(M), BJD, Shiv Sena and AIADMK.
Participating in the discussion on the issue, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said "history will not pardon you (Congress) if you implement this measure. I am telling this also to those who were with us in the 'Bharat Bandh'," called by the entire opposition, including Left parties and the BJP in September to protest allowing of FDI in multi-brand retail. Sharad Yadav said that 85% of the people would be adversely affected by the move.
Warning of more agitations against FDI in retail, senior CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia said while the Left has been consistent in opposing the move, the government has been "inconsistent throughout".
- Asian Tribune -