‘Country not ready to face competition from FDI retail giants'

The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday served an ultimatum on the government: either revoke the decision on FDI in retail or face continued disruption of Parliament.

Leaders of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley jointly made it known that nothing short of a rollback of the Cabinet decision to allow 51 per cent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail would be opposed tooth and nail. They pointed out that a number of parties with different ideologies were opposed to the government move as the country was not yet prepared to take on the competition from retail giants with deep pockets.

At the same time, they indicated, the BJP was not particularly opposed to 100 per cent FDI in single-brand retail. “Only the top one or two per cent of the population goes to such branded stores,” a senior leader said.

From what Ms. Swaraj said at a press conference here, it is clear the party will not be satisfied with the government simply admitting an adjournment motion. “The motion we have given in the name of Murli Manohar Joshi itself demands a rollback,” she said, adding similar notices for adjournment motions had been submitted by Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal –United) and leaders of the Left as well as the Bahujan Samaj Party and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Referring to the Left's demand for a rollback, “I corroborate [and associate] with comrade Sitaram Yechury's view that the government is not interested in allowing this session to run.”

Her allegation is that the government took this “provocative decision” after an agreement had been reached between the treasury and opposition benches on how to tackle the demands for discussions on price rise and black money. “To say the Opposition is not allowing the House to function is wrong. It was their provocative action that led to the stalling of Parliament today [Monday] and it was Congress members who prevented it from functioning by raising the Telangana issue on Thursday,” she asserted.

Mr. Jaitley regretted that the House was being stalled as a result of the government's unwillingness to allow any discussion under a parliamentary rule that entails vote. “These rules are there and are to be used.”

A senior BJP leader said India was not yet ready for multibrand retail in FDI. The government should have first built up infrastructure — roads, docks, power — and also undertaken labour reforms. For, that would give a boost to manufacture so that the manufacturing sector would also benefit from FDI in retail.

The BJP dismissed the need for an all-party meeting of floor leaders called for Tuesday. “What is the need for this meeting? The government must simply roll back the FDI announcement,” said Ms. Swaraj.