The debate on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) finally began in Lok Sabha on Tuesday 4 December. After initial hiccups when Opposition parties led by the BJP and the Left demanded for a 30-day time period to think over issue, Speaker Meira Kumar overruled the request and allowed debate on FDI in retail and FEMA simultaneously.
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj initiated the motion by expressing surprise that the government hadn’t consulted the members of Parliament before deciding to implement FDI in retail. “There has been no discussion regarding FDI in any form,” she said. Opposing the government’s move, Swaraj questioned its judgment by asking why it wouldn’t learn from the mistakes made by other countries.
Swaraj also questioned the viability of opening Walmart stores in India to accommodate 40 lakhs jobs in the country when one Walmart store employed only 2000 people.
TMC leader Saugata Roy joined Swaraj in opposing the government’s move to allow FDI in retail by saying that America coming through Walmart will be the same as British entering through East India Company. He questioned the motive of the government saying that either America will profit for its monetary investment or China will profit by manufacturing the goods for Walmart. In a similar stance, BSP’s Dara Singh Chauhan pointed out that people remember British rule in India when the issue of FDI in retail is discussed.
Countering the Opposition, Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal listed positive impacts of allowing FDI in retail and questioned the Opposition’s intention for not supporting FDI in retail when it would lead to more job opportunities and profit to the country and farmers.
Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav questioned the limit set for big retail outlets to open their stores only in cities with a population of more than 10 lakh stores if the ruling says that FDI is so good. DMK member TKS Elangovan said his party was against FDI but he wouldn’t vote against ruling party or withdraw its support to the government.
The discussion will continue in Lok Sabha on Wednesday 5 December, followed by a vote. Reporting from the Parliament, Tehelka’s Special Correspondent Ashhar Khan said that the government is confident of wining tomorrow’s vote. “It is in Rajya Sabha, where the discussion and vote would take place on 6 and 7 December that the government is banking heavily on SP and BSP,” Khan added. He also pointed out that constitutionally, there is no threat to the government even if it loses the vote in the both Houses of Parliament.