If one adds up the number of MPs in the Lok Sabha belonging to political parties that have a stated position against FDI in retail trade, it will certainly be bigger than the number of MPs in favour of FDI. Actually, the figure goes well past the Lok Sabha majority mark of 272. Yet the resolution opposing FDI received only 218 votes in favour; 253 MPs voted against the resolution. Had the Samajwadi Party and the BSP—which together have 43 seats in the Lok Sabha—not walked out after registering their opposition to retail FDI, the resolution would have passed. To argue that NDA constituents—such as the Akali Dal—are in favour of FDI in retail but voted against it due to “political compulsions” does not make much sense, because the same holds for UPA constituents like the DMK or most of the Congress MPs from Kerala, who voted against the resolution out of similar “compulsions”. While the fate of the number game in the Rajya Sabha is even more precariously poised, one won’t be surprised if these dubious “compulsions” come into play once again.
There is something very sinister about these “compulsions”, which is preventing the popular will from being reflected on the floor of Parliament. Take the case of Samajwadi Party and the BSP. Their argument that voting for the resolution opposing FDI in retail trade would amount to strengthening the communal forces is patently bogus. FDI in retail is a livelihood issue, where at least one-fifth of the Indian population have a direct stake, given the fact that retail trade sector is the second largest employer in India after agriculture. A large proportion of the small unorganised retailers in India also belong to the Muslim community.
Moreover, both the BSP and the Samajwadi Party have done business with the BJP in the past. The BSP ran governments in Uttar Pradesh with the BJP’s support thrice—in 1995, 1997 and 2002—while the Samajwadi Party lined up with the BJP-backed NDA candidate, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, in the 2002 presidential elections. A former BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, who presided over the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, was also an active campaigner for the Samajwadi Party in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Over 100 communal clashes have occurred annually in Uttar Pradesh under the BSP’s rule and the incidence has risen alarmingly under the Samajwadi Party’s rule in recent times. In comparison, how would have voting in favour of a resolution opposing FDI in retail in the Lok Sabha along with the BJP made them culpable of aiding communalism? Is it the case that all the non-NDA parties like the Left parties, TMC, AIADMK, TDP or BJD become communal because they have voted for the motion? It was after all not a no-confidence motion, but a resolution opposing a specific policy decision of the government of the day. The passage of the anti-FDI in retail resolution would not have led to the collapse of the government, but would have certainly made it difficult to implement FDI in retail. One should be clear that what the Samajwadi Party and BSP have done is not to save a “secular” government but to facilitate the implementation of the retail FDI policy through subterfuge.
Had the resolution passed, the credit would not have necessarily gone to the BJP. If there was one irrefutable argument that came from the Congress side during the Lok Sabha debate, it was about the brazen double standards being adopted by the BJP—they had vocally espoused the pro-FDI retail position during the NDA’s tenure and are opposing it now for the sake of it. The BJP’s heart, given its overall position on economic policies, is certainly not in opposing FDI in retail. The irony is that during the NDA’s tenure, the Congress, as the main opposition party, had also opposed FDI in retail vociferously.
Had the anti-retail FDI resolution been passed, the smaller parties who have been most consistent in their opposition—particularly the Left or even the SP/BSP—could have legitimately claimed credit. Rather, what the Congress on the one hand and the SP/BSP on the other have successfully done is to facilitate the passage of a policy against popular will, by cynically playing the “communal versus secular” card on an issue which has little to do with communalism or secularism. By this warped logic, any opposition to the Congress-led government’s economic policies—or its impact in rising corruption, inflation and external vulnerability—would amount to supporting the BJP or communalism! It is such skulduggery that trivialises the secular cause and, what is worse, threatens to erode the credibility of Indian democracy.
(The writer resigned from the CPI(M) in June to protest against its decision to support the Congress-led UPA’s candidate in the last presidential election.)
Mulayam Singh’s actions in the FDI debate were predictable (The Colours of Fallacy, Dec 17). As for his Left leanings, he has been using the Left since H.K.S. Surjeet’s time. The SP decimated the Left in UP through defections, luring even a CPI secretary away. And they still pucker up to him.
Devraj Phogat, Charkhi Dadri
Unless all the ‘divided’ people understand that political parties are using them, we’ll have continue to have such unprincipled, opportunistic parties leading the nation.
Pankaj Hedaoo, Kuala Lumpur
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
People in Walmart, are they aware of what you are intimating, Ms. Ramki? It appears, that in your perception, it is not suitable for them, too. Also, people realise, that the huge earnings of Walmart, are not for that business entity, or for individuals. The significance is greater, than Walmart, or some individuals. Walmart is the entity of business, which has the greatest comsumer sales figures and volumes, in the U. S. It appears, that people avoid ostentatious spending, according to them, when they shop at Walmart. In other words, people feel that they save money, and the general idea is, that people recognise the goods not as desirable, and spend not to buy goods which they desire, in excess. It would seem, the U. S. was thinking about saving, when their govt.'s were not aware of this thought, and wanted to encourage currency spent, in volume. It appears, that there is no plus or minus, in this situation. It appears, that Walmart gives the perception, that if consumer goods are affordable, then the economy prospers, how?, because the consumer goods cost low, and there is less of a burden on the economy. But, the U. S. govt. has a crisis, where goods from China are sold in that nations economy at Walmart outlets, and presumably, the economics of Walmart ensures that the prices of goods at Walmart, are lower than what the cost of bringing the goods into the U. S. are. This is what I strongly presume, but I could be very erroneous. The idea of the world economy appears that goods should be sold at the lowest price, even lower than the cost of the goods before they are sold. Walmart might be practicing subsidies, like govt.'s like to subsidise oil and agricultural produce. I wonder what the CPI(M) feel about this idea, if it is true, or turns out to be, later in time? I don't think they would feel bad, about this initiative. The situation in Europe seems to be this, where European goods might be in a theoretical situation similar to this, in markets, domestic, European or otherwise.
Aditya Mookherjee >> The interesting question is, that Reliance and the Aditya Birla group could have invested considerably, but not to the extent Carrefour and Walmart can, in a business venture similar to Walmart, and separate from Reliance Fresh, and More, but did not. Why?
Investing in Big Scale, cross country retail chains is a hugely loss making propositino in short term. It requires massive capital investments over a long period - say 10 years, before breakeven is acheived.
One of earliest retail chains in India is Foodworld aka spencers daily, sponsored by CESC, a listed company run by Goenkas of Kolkatta. They started in late 1990s and now, they say the chain will break even in 2014 -15..Funnily now Goenka says, they will ensure the profits are acheived by closing some unprofitably, not much visited outlets !!
Carrefour or wal mart earn far more profits (Thanks to the high value of Dollar or euro against Indian rupee) so they can withstand losses for such long duration. The numbers are all available in public (use Google finance) so you can understand who can win the game of attrition in multi brand retail..
Augusta Westland deal to supply 12 VVIP helicopters to India is being investigated by ITALIAN attorney general for 51 Million EUROs KICKBACKs (about 340 Crore Rupees). ---------------WALMART has confirmed to US SENATE of spending 25 Million DOLLARS (Rs 130 Crore) to open up FDI in RETAIL in India. WHY IS THERE NO INVESTIGATION IN INDIA??? ----------------------------------------------- LOOT SCAM LOOT is on in India.
Congress can always get the support of required number MPs in both the houses of parliament, just like Shakuni(of mahabharat) was getting required numbers on his dice.
Mr. Bose does understand, that Communists are a community, and believe in the commune, or the community. What the Communists did perhaps not foresee, is that people are not invited nor are they influenced to be Communists. They have a broad understanding of Communism, and they have differences among themselves. Every 'communal' identity is the same. It appears, that strength is in the number, and the stronger the number is in perception, the perception is seen similarly, and there is difference in how people, perhaps, further their perception. Is a Communist believer, a fundamentalist? Is a Liberal a fundamentalist? Is a Conservative a fundamentalist, also? Perhaps, we all are. It seems, people fight Communists and Capitalists, and everyone has differences, just because of the name. Capital is more important to Communists, it appears than it is to Capitalists, but the function of the same is different to the two communes.
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