Sibal tries to convince allies but in vain

The Congress was left to weather the storm on the day one of the debate on FDI in retail at Lok Sabha, where its allies DMK, BSP and SP openly voiced their opposition to the controversial policy.

Speaking for 51 per cent FDI in retail in Lok Sabha, Congress MP and telecom minister Kapil Sibal questioned the BJP, TMC and Left’s objections by stating that the policy will be implemented in 18 out of 53 districts having 10 lakh or more population owing to many states opposing it.

While the DMK has indicated that they would vote with the government, SP and BSP maintained silence whether they would abstain or vote for the FDI decision when the debate concludes on Wednesday.

Sibal also said that 30 per cent will be sources for micro, small, medium enterprises (MSME) locally giving a fillip to the manufacturing sector.  Countering leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj’s arguments that that superstores like Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour would swallow local mom and pop stores, Sibal said despite China giving 100 per cent FDI in retail in 1992 in their six provinces and special economic zones, Walmart struggled to make profit till 2008.

He read out an NDA GoM note, BJP’s 2004 manifesto, and their popular Shining India campaign to point out that the opposition party was committed to opening up of the retail sector but backed out after losing to the UPA.   

Ridiculing Swaraj for saying that the Adhati (wholesale procurer) system, which favoured farmers during crises, would vanish in the new scenario, the minister said: “So you decide whether you are with farmers or middlemen”. 

Despite deciding to support the government, the DMK issued the caveat that the FDI in retail would harm large number of traders across the country.  “I am not telling this as an opponent, but telling this as your brother. I don’t want to put you (UPA government) for a whole-body scan as an opposition, but it (FDI in retail) is definitely not in interest of the trading community,” DMK leader T K S Elangovan said. “The poor people are anxious over the impact this policy can have on their lives. They fear the multi-national companies will take away their livelihoods. The government should not rush with it,” Bahujan Samaj Party leader Dara Singh Chauhan said.

He, however, added that his party will let its final position known when voting takes place on Wednesday.

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