Wal-Mart lobbying creates storm; company denies illegality
The issue of Wal-Mart lobbying led to a political storm with Opposition creating pandemonium in the Rajya Sabha and promising to create further trouble tomorrow by pressing its demand for a probe and a statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The issue of Wal-Mart lobbying led to a political storm with Opposition creating pandemonium in the Rajya Sabha and promising to create further trouble tomorrow by pressing its demand for a probe and a statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. BJP, CPI-M, CPI, SP, JD-U, Trinamool Congress, AGP and AIADMK used the issue to target the government over its decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in retail. These parties created ruckus in the Rajya Sabha soon after the Question Hour, alleging that the US giant had indulged in corruption to enter Indian market. The uproar led to three adjournments till 2 PM when the House was adjourned finally for the day.
Though the issue did not figure in the Lok Sabha today, the Opposition has decided to rake it up there tomorrow. "It is a very very serious issue. It has been raised in Rajya Sabha today. We propose to raise it in Lok Sabha tomorrow," senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha told reporters. When pointed out that lobbying is not illegal in the US, the former External Affairs Minister said, "I know it is allowed in the US. But the laws of the two countries are different. Lobbying in the US does not mean corruption but in India, it does. That is the difference. There is illegality."
Earlier, Ravishankar Prasad (BJP) raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha during the Zero Hour. He said apprehensions were raised earlier also about Wal-Mart spending huge money to lobby for entering the Indian market and that it has now been proved true. He was supported by members of other opposition parties. Bharti Wal-Mart issued a statement, saying the opposition allegations of corruption are "entirely false". It said the amount mentioned in its disclosure is a "compilation of expenses associated with staff, association dues, consultants and contributions spent in the US."
The Wal-Mart lobbying issue brought back into focus the decision on FDI with Opposition uniting even as motions brought by it got defeated in both Houses last week with government securing numbers with the help of BSP and SP. Prasad said that Wal-Mart has in its lobbying disclosure report to the US Senate said it has spent Rs 125 crore on lobbying and USD three million have been spent in 2012 itself for entering the Indian market.
"Lobbying is illegal in India. Lobbying is a kind of bribe. If Wal-Mart has said that hundreds of crores of rupees were spent in India, then it is a kind of bribe. Government should tell who was given this bribe. This raises a question mark on the implementation of FDI in retail," he said. The BJP leader was supported by TMC leader D Bandopadhyay who waved a newspaper report and CPI-M member P Rajeeve who demanded an "independent inquiry" into the whole episode alleging that there are some reports saying Wal-Mart invested money even before FEMA was amended.
"This is bribery," he said as the Opposition members shouted slogans in favour of withdrawing FDI. Amid din, SP members trooped into the Well shouting slogans against the government's move to bring reservation in promotion for SCs/STs. Government has listed the Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill, 2012 for this purpose in the House.
Earlier, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla assured the members that he would bring the matter to the notice of the minister concerned. This was, however, rejected by the Opposition which insisted on a response from the Prime Minister. T Siva (DMK) was also on his feet. Minister of State in PMO V Narayanasamy was heard saying "what more they (the Opposition) want, when he (Shukla) has said that he will bring it to the notice of the minister concerned". While BSP members kept seated, those from SP were on their feet joining the issue with BJP and Left.