With the country divided over FDI in retail, ‘India Tonight’ presents the opposition’s view on the subject with BJP leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley and CPM Politburo Member, Sitaram Yechury.
BJP leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Former Commerce Minister, Arun Jaitley and CPM Politburo Member and Rajya Sabha leader, Sitaram Yechury discuss with CNBC-TV18’s Karan Thapar why the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the CPM are countering the government’s arguments in favour of FDI and what are their own reasons for opposing it.
Below is an edited transcript of their comments. Watch the accompanying videos for more.
Q: The National Democratic Party (NDA) manifesto of 2004 called for 26% FDI in retail. Two years earlier in 2002 the NDA Minister for Commerce and Industry, Dayanidhi Maran authored a note calling for 100% FDI in retail. Is the BJP’s opposition to FDI today simply politics?
Jaitely: Right from 1980 when the BJP had been formed, the BJP has been consistently opposed to FDI as far as the retail sector is concerned because we believe that the Indian economy is still not ready for it. During the NDA government from 1998 to 2004, several suggestions have been mooted, particularly, proposals came from the United States of America, the European Union as part of bilateral dialogue, as part of WTO dialogue that we must open FDI in retail. Consistently when we were in power for six years we resisted it. Yes, Maran may have moved a proposal but the fact is that proposal was not accepted by the NDA. That’s the proof of the fact that the NDA government was not in favour of it.
I succeeded Maran as the Minister for Commerce and Industry and consistently in 2003-2004 I followed a policy that India is not yet ready for FDI in retail. The BJP in 2004 had a vision document which was not in favour of FDI in retail. In 2009 we specifically said no FDI, even the negative was mentioned.
You are absolutely right when you say that in the NDA manifesto the suggestion of 26% has come up that’s the only exception. We reconsidered the matter and thereafter, consistently the BJP has taken a position, we negated it as far as 2009 manifesto is concerned but we have never actually put into practice that manifesto because we never got an opportunity to do so.
Q: But the important point is the word you used ‘reconsidered’ the matter which means you changed your mind because when Atal Bihar Vajpayee was Chairman of the NDA in 2004 you were advocating 26% FDI?
Jaitley: That’s actually not correct. When we were in power for the six years we consistently said no, our manifesto said no. There is one exception that it came in the NDA manifesto. I am a little surprised that it did come but it didn’t come in any of the BJP documents. Therefore in our 2009 BJP agenda and our manifesto we specifically said though we stand for organised and structured retail to improve upon it but no FDI.
Q: The truth is that the government doesn’t actually need Parliamentary clearance for FDI in retail. It’s a purely executive decision. So even though you and your party don’t like the decision, why are you holding up the functioning of Parliament over this issue?
Yechury: For the simple reason that though the government has the executive right to take a decision in the Cabinet, it is not normally done when Parliament is in session. This has not been the only case and the Congress has its own history. In 1989 and 1999, Congress members, one of who is the current home minister, moved a motion of privilege against the then Prime Minister in government for making policy announcements outside the House when the House was in session. Though the privilege motion was not accepted, the then Speaker ruled that this was a case of impropriety. That same impropriety applies to the government in this case as well.
Q: In which case why don’t you move another privilege motion and try and have the government censor for impropriety. Why hold up Parliament because Parliament doesn’t have to endorse this decision?
Yechury: We are not holding up Parliament, it’s the government that’s holding up Parliament. Why don’t they discuss this and say that we will take a sense of the House and take a decision?
Q: They don’t need to take a sense of the House. What about Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s argument that the government perhaps chose deliberately to announce this when Parliament is in session because this is the open and transparent way of doing it. You are holding up Parliament, don’t hold up Parliament?
Yechury: No, rules are holding it up. The point that we are saying is take it before the session or after the session. Why did you take it in the middle of the session? Is it because you promised the US President when you met him in Bali?
Q: Is your sole concern timing?
Yechury: Not timing. When the proposal was first mooted by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) one in the 2004-05 budget speech we had opposed this; we continue to oppose it that is why it never saw the light of the day. As long as the UPA-1 government was there they survived and not support and our opposition has been completely consistent and it has been based on our understanding and facts of the matter that it is harmful for India in the present conditions.
For the complete show watch the accompanying videos...
READ MORE ON FDI in retail, India Tonight, Arun Jaitley, Sitaram Yechury, Karan Thapar, Bharatiya Janata Party, CPM, National Democratic Party, Dayanidhi Maran
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