The Bahujan Samaj Party today promised to vote in favour of FDI in the Rajya Sabha, giving much relief to the Government which is bracing for a crucial vote tomorrow, even as the BJP and AIADMK attacked parties which sided with UPA despite having reservations over the measure.
A day after the Opposition motion seeking rollback of the decision was rejected convincingly in the Lok Sabha, the Upper House took up the debate with the Opposition attacking the decision saying that it would hurt the poor.
“We have decided to vote in favour of the Government on FDI in multi-brand retail issue tomorrow,” BSP chief Mayawati, whose party has 15 members in the Rajya Sabha, said participating in the debate.
The party had yesterday staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha, helping bailout the Government in the vote.
Mayawati said her party has decided to support the Government because the FDI policy “has a plus point as it is not binding on states and they are free to implement it’’.
AIADMK member V. Maitreyan initiated the discussion and made a strong demand for withdrawing the decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail.
Maitreyan and Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley earlier attacked BSP as also Samajwadi Party, DMK and Nationalist Congress Party for helping the Government in voting despite reservations to the policy.
BSP was the main target of Jaitley who said: “You know that this policy is harmful to the country. If you are willing to proclaim, you should be willing to strike.”
Mayawati reacted sharply to the remarks that her party was helping the Government under CBI pressure saying the main Opposition party is levelling such allegations after it found out that “grapes were sour” as its game plan did not succeed.
Her remarks led to noisy scenes in the House as BJP demanded the remarks to be expunged but Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said there was nothing unparliamentary in what the BSP supremo has said.
Jaitley and Maitreyan said the measure was earlier opposed by both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi when they were in the Opposition.
Jaitley targeted the Prime Minister reminding him that as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha during the NDA rule, Singh had strongly opposed FDI in retail.
Hitting out at DMK over the issue, Maitreyan said: “If there is one party which believes in running with the hare and hunting with the hound, it is DMK.”
While DMK had voted with the Government in the Lok Sabha during the debate yesterday, SP and BSP had staged a walkout. All the three parties had spoken against the measure, a fact repeatedly highlighted by Jaitely during the debate today.
Jaitley also referred to NCP’s announcement of not supporting FDI in multi-brand retail and reminded that the DMK had participated in a Bharat bandh against the move.
He said the Government was creating a “horror situation” about lack of cold storage chains to justify the need for FDI in the sector. “Is making cold chains impossible? It is not rocket science,” he said, adding that it was giving isolated examples in favour of the move.
He also raised questions on the continuation of the UPA Government, saying that it has failed to touch the figure of 272 and has fallen short of 18 of a majority in the Lower House.
“After this figure, you are a lame duck government” and questioned how much price the nation would have to pay for the decision of a “minority” government.
Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, who was the first to speak on the issue on the Government’s behalf, said the UPA has taken a “conscious decision” on FDI in multi-brand retail and “at this stage of economic development and growth permitting FDI is a national imperative”.
Kumar said the move will be able to enlist a significant amount of investment in backyard infrastructure which is required to create warehouses and cold chains so that the produce of farmers do not go waste.
He also sought to remind Jaitley that the NDA Cabinet had taken a view in favour of FDI, which was rejected by Jaitley saying that it was never so and was only a proposal.
Earlier, initiating the debate Maitreyan said that his party opposed this decision of the “minority” UPA government of allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, adding that it had failed to muster the support of 272 members in the Lok Sabha on the issue.
He said the Government’s announcement of the measure was a “clear case violation” of the solemn promise given to this House last year that an attempt will be made to build consensus on the issue.
Mayawati said BSP wanted to boycott voting in the Rajya Sabha but this would have led to the passage of motion against FDI, thus giving the Opposition space for “politicising” their victory and the House would have not functioned, where several important bills are pending.
Keeping these in mind, she said her party decided to support the Government.
The BSP supremo launched a scathing attack on the BJP by accusing it of “misusing” the CBI when it was in power.
“We are not afraid of CBI....never have been afraid of CBI even in worst times,” she said.
Mayawati said the BJP wanted to contest 2004 general elections with her party but she refused. She said that the BSP could form government with BJP but cannot compromise ideology and contest elections with them.