As the debate on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail continued in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, in a huge boost to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's chances, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati declared that she would vote for the government on the issue.
The decision by the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister assured the UPA of the much-needed numbers ahead of Friday's vote. Bringing further relief to the government was the Samajwadi Party (SP), which announced that it would abstain from the voting on Friday.
Mayawati cited the "false allegations" of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as her reason to decide to support the government on the issue. Addressing the Rajya Sabha, the BSP chief said, "The allegations of BSP working under CBI pressure are baseless...it is the BJP which has misused the CBI...the BSP has decided to support the government on FDI on the plus point that states are free to implement or not implement it."
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She further said, "It is important to see in which sector foreign investment will be done. For any developing country, investment in all sectors is important." "FDI is needed for developing countries. FDI should do value addition," Mayawati added.
Another highlight of the debate in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday was when former BJP president Venkaiah Naidu called a woman MP of the Congress party 'bewakoof' for disrupting his speech. Following this, the Congress MP, Prabha Thakur, broke down in the House which led to the BJP leader apologise for his remark.
Earlier on Thursday, as the debate began in the Rajya Sabha, the Trinamool Congress compared the debate on FDI to match-fixing saying that a minority government has no locus standi to fix the debate. "Match fixing won't do, minority government won't be allowed to fix debate. The government has to go," TMC leader Derek O'Brien said.
He further said that genuine reforms were not about bringing FDI in retail but about developing the infrastructure. "Before FDI there needs to be infrastructure. UPA is like a property developer who is decorating a drawing room, without constructing the building," Derek said.
Continuing the offensive against the government, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, called the UPA a lame duck government saying, "You are a lame duck government. You need a strong support now." "When the government is not able to touch the 272 figure in the Lok Sabha, then a lot is questionable. To reach this number one has to take assistance from many and reach to some understandings. This is a worrying situation," Jaitley added.
Jaitley criticised FDI in retail in the Rajya Sabha saying it would not benefit local shops. "Domestic retails source their product domestically, international retails source their products internationally where the products are the cheapest," Jaitley said.
"Manufacturing sector will be the first adversely affected sector where there is FDI in retail," he added. Jaitley also challenged Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal to get an international retail store opened in his constituency.
"If India implements FDI in retail, India will become a country of sales boys, the manufacturing sector will collapse, all the stores will be of international firms. We will be consumers of international products," Jaitley added.
Jaitley countered facts and figures given by the UPA for endorsing FDI in retail in the Rajya Sabha. Jaitley said that UPA's entire debate on FDI was based on deceptive and exaggerated figures. He also demanded the government to reconsider FDI and withdraw it. He also appealed to the Parliamentarians to vote against FDI in retail.
Reacting to the attacks, the government refuted the Opposition's claims that FDI would not benefit the farmers. "The small and marginal farmers will be the biggest beneficiaries of this policy. The farming community will have a lot to rejoice if this policy is implemented," Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said in the Rajya Sabha.
The Law Minister further cited Walmart China's example during the debate. "Walmart went to China 20 years ago, it amounts to 5 per cent of the market in China. It procures 60 per cent of the global procurement from China, so China benefits the most," he said.
Later, the Shiv Sena also attacked the government and termed the move to bring FDI in retail as a bid to sell of the country. Citing Bofors, 2G spectrum and coal scams, the Shiv Sena leader said, "Till now the government has looted the country, but now it wants to sell it off."
Raut accused the government of extending red carpet to 'Walmart'. He further said that till now, just the farmers were committing suicide, now small businessmen would do the same.
The numbers in Rajya Sabha:
HOUSE STRENGTH - 244
FOR FDI 117
CONG (70) + NCP (7) + DMK (7) + OTH (7) + RJD (2) + NOM (9) + BSP (15)
AGAINST FDI 99
NDA (64) + LEFT (14) + TMC (9) + ADMK(5) + BJD(7)