New Delhi: With the Walmart lobbying disclosure becoming a major political issue, the UPA government on Tuesday agreed to an inquiry on the matter.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha first and later in the Lok Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said in an identical statement that “the government views this with as much concern as the Opposition and has no hesitation in having an inquiry”.
“We want to get to the fact of this matter. It is a matter of concern for the government as well. We (the government) would make further announcement during the course of the day,” Kamal Nath announced.
The minister made the statement in Lok Sabha amid continued uproar by Opposition benches, with BJP’s Yashwant Sinha demanding a judicial inquiry into the matter.
The inquiry report should come within 60 days and expose those who received bribes paid by Walmart, an angry Sinha said.
The Lok Sabha was meanwhile adjourned till 2 pm. The Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, was functioning normally after the government’s announcement.
Kamal Nath had earlier appealed to the Opposition to let Parliament function.
The government is worried that its big bang reforms, including pending bills on financial matters, may get derailed if the deadlock over the Walmart issue and promotions in quota Bill persists.
Nath is also believed to have briefed the Congress top brass on the.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi discussed ways to resolve the logjam over Walmart lobbying and quota in promotions issues, after both Houses were disrupted when they convened at 11 am.
Soon after Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were adjourned, senior UPA leaders, who are members of the Congress Core Group, gathered at the Prime Minister`s Office in Parliament House and are understood to have been briefed by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister.
The two Houses were adjourned over Opposition uproar over reports that the US retail giant Walmart had employed a firm to lobby its case in India. Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have also been warring over the issue of SC/ST quota in promotions in government jobs.
The BJP, which yesterday stalled the Rajya Sabha and demanded a transparent inquiry and response from the government on the Walmart issue, had given notices in both Houses of Parliament for the suspension of Question Hour and a discussion on the matter.
Reports had claimed that the international supermarket chain, Walmart, had spent Rs 125 crore on lobbying activities in the US, including on issues related to enhanced market access for investment in India.
BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu yesterday sought a statement from PM Manmohan Singh and said he should explain the government`s position on the issue. "We want a fair inquiry and a response from the government," Naidu said.
He said the Central government cannot keep quiet on the disclosures made, and added that the party will continue raising the issue in Parliament.
Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said lobbying disclosure reports by Walmart speak about the company spending money on lobbying in India.
"It seems they (the government) have laid red carpet (for international retail chains). The decision to allow FDI (multi-brand retail) was taken in a hurry," Prasad said and added that the party wanted an investigation.
It may be noted that the government had only last week won a vote in Parliament over allowing FDI in multi-brand retail.