If States have reservations, their right must be considered
The Government mounted a strong defence on the opening up of retail trade on Thursday with Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma emphatically pointing out that the decision was taken by a democratically-elected government.
BJP MPs Prakash Javadekar and Rajiv Pratap Rudy and CPI-M MP K.N. Balagopal on Wednesday submitted a breach of privilege notice against Sharma to the Rajya Sabha Chairman, saying that all the stakeholders were not consulted before taking a decision on foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail.
The three MPs submitted the notice to Vice-President Hamid Ansari, who is the ex-officio Chairperson of the Upper House, pointing out that Sharma had given an assurance in this regard on December 7, 2011, when he had said that the Government would not permit 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail trade until a consensus was arrived at after consultations with various stakeholders. A similar assurance was given by then Leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee on the same day.
BJP maintained that despite making this promise in both Houses of Parliament, the Government went ahead to unilaterally allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail.
“We have honoured every commitment on FDI in retail. Sixteen States met us and we had detailed stakeholder consideration including from farmers body, consumer federations and chambers of commerce. I would like to say with full truth that the Government has honoured its commitments,” Sharma told reporters in a late evening news conference.
Stating that the policy had been framed and notified by a democratically elected government, Sharma said, “we have given an enabling policy, it is up to the States to implement it. If States have reservations then their right have to be considered”.
Pointing that the BJP Government had a different stance on FDI in retail and telecom while in power, Sharma said, “I am surprised by the twisted logic of democracy. When other decisions were taken by the previous Government, Congress didn’t object to it. BJP has taken an approach that it will oppose everything on the floor of the House. You cannot create an environment of uncertainty in Parliament”.
Pooh-poohing BJP’s claim that FDI in retail will bring in large-scale loss of livelihood, as has happened in other countries, Sharma said, “Our policies are different from other countries. It has a distinct Indian identity and has been framed keeping all aspects in mind.”