Government today won the approval of Parliament to its controversial decision of allowing FDI in multi-brand retail with a motion against it being defeated convincingly in Rajya Sabha, as BSP voted in favour of
123 members voted against the motion while 109 voted in favour after a two-day animated debate during which the Opposition attacked the proposal to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, while the government strongly justified it saying it was in the best interest of the country.
Samajwadi Party, which has nine members in the House, staged a walkout expressing dissatisfaction over Commerce Minister Anand Sharma's reply.
The defeat of the motion moved by AIADMK member V Maitreyan in the Rajya Sabha came two days after the Lok Sabha voted out a similar motion, paving the way for entry of global supermarkets like Walmart into the country.
The government's victory in Rajya Sabha, where UPA lacks a majority of its own, came with the help of 15-member
BSP, which had walked out of the Lok Sabha during voting on the issue. UPA has 94 members in the Upper House which has an effective strength of 244.
Sachin Tendulkar, nominated member who is playing test match in Kolkata, Murli Deora (Cong), who is unwell, and rebel BJD leader Pyari Mohan Mahapatra were absent.
Replying to the debate, Maitreyan insisted that majority of the House was not in favour of FDI in multi-brand retail. He said voting did not take place on "merits of the issue, but other considerations...It is a victory of the minority."
Earlier, Sharma maintained that the move was essential for the country's growth and rejected the opposition contention that it would hurt the small retailers and farmers and harm the manufacturing sector.
The division of votes was marred by some technical glitches because of which the exercise had to be done again.
The animated debate saw clashes between government and the opposition as the sides put forth their arguments and counter arguments.
Sharma questioned BJP's opposition to FDI in retail saying that when the party was in power, it had plans to allow FDI in retail up to the extent of 100 percent, which was countered vociferously by members from the BJP including Leader of the Opposition Arun
To justify his arguments, Sharma cited a report of a Committee of Planning Commission in 2002 headed by N K Singh, now a
JD-U member of Rajya Sabha.
Sharma said the report had favoured up to 100 per cent FDI in retail be brought in as it will benefit both consumers and farmers.
Singh wanted to respond to it but the minister refused to yield leading to pandemonium with Trinamool Congress and Left showing solidarity with Singh and slamming the minister.
An angry Opposition accused Sharma of misleading the House and demanded an apology from the government as Singh said that the report had concluded that FDI in multi-brand retail was not in interest of the nation at this time.
The uproar led to abrupt adjournment of the House for over an hour.
Targetting Sharma, Jaitley said, "The Minister has said that N K Singh in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee has supported FDI in multi-brand retail. He cannot play up one paragraph. You are reading the preamble and not the conclusion...Please allow him (Singh) to speak."
When the House re-assembled, the minister said his contention was misunderstood but he wanted to ask why the proposal was not taken forward.
Responding to the Opposition's criticism of FDI, Sharma accused Opposition of creating a scare over the issue and rejected Jaitley's contention that THE measure will lead to India becoming a nation of sales boys and sales girls.
"You have scared foreign investors, who want to visit India," he said.
Sharma also took strong objection to Jaitley's remarks yesterday challenging Union Minister Kapil Sibal to get such a super store in his Parliamentary seat Chandni Chowk and see the result in next Lok Sabha election and asked Jaitley to contest against Sibal from there in the next election.
V Maitreyan, who had initiated the debate, said that even if the government is able to defeat the motion in Rajya Sabha "I give a solemn assurance to this House that after the next election, the next government will reverse the decision of the
He also said that even Government wins in this House it will be "Anand Sharma loses, Kamalnath wins". Because, if the government wins it is going to be the victory of management and not the policy because the majority of speakers in the House have opposed the policy.
His remark that he rises "to perform the last rites of UPA's policy of FDI in multi-brand retail" drew angry protests from Congress members.
Sharma earlier rejected the Opposition charge that the government did not consult political parties on the issue.
"I met 14 Chief Ministers and held discussions with them. I went to Punjab and met Akali leader and Chief Minister Parkas Singh
Badal. I also met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata
Bannerjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress chief. I met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. I also wrote to all Chief Ministers and 19 of them responded."
Sharma claimed that discussions were also held between BJP President Nitin Gadkari and Finance Minister over lunch before taking the decision and rubbished the opposition charge that no consultation with stakeholders was held on FDI in retail.
"I had sent my Commerce Secretary thrice to Leader of the Opposition in both Houses - Sushma Swaraj and
Jaitley. I have kept the Leaders of Opposition relentlessly informed of what we were doing," Sharma said.
The minister also said that BJP has also taken a number of executive decisions regarding the FDI and there were no political consultations on them.
Accusing the BJP of making a mountain out of a mole hill, the minister said Walmart would not need any public relation exercise if it comes to India as BJP has done it well.
"You have made such a big thing out of it that my wife and children got panicked and wondered whom did I bring in here. Who is this
Walmart," Sharma said in a lighter vein to which Jaitley told him "if your family members are concerned then at least listen to them".
Sharma said that there was a reverse exercise (Sheershashan) of arguments on FDI in the House yesterday.
Countering the opposition charge of exaggerating figures in support of FDI in retail sector, Sharma claimed that around 35 per cent of fruits and vegetables in the country amounting to Rs 50,000 crore were wasted every year.
This was vociferously countered by the opposition, claiming that Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had given a different figure and Sharma was misleading the House.
Jaitley sought to know which figure of the government was correct. When Sharma refused to yield, Jaitley said, "You yield to the truth, not to me. It is in your minister's reply."
This led to uproarious scenes with opposition seeking an answer as to which figure was correct. "After all, there can only be one correct figure," said
Jaitley, while Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) said, "Give answer to the House. Sharad Pawar is right or wrong."