UPA govt wins Parliament approval for FDI in retail
New Delhi: After the Lok Sabha, the UPA government on Friday secured an easy victory in the Rajya Sabha as well on the issue of permitting FDI in multi-brand retail. And armed with the victory, the government declared that there was no stopping India's reform process.
The Opposition-backed motion against FDI in multi-brand retail could manage 102 votes while the government secured 123, of the total 212 MPs present in the House.
While the 15-member BSP openly sided with UPA with a positive vote, Samajwadi Party - which has nine members in the House - staged a walkout expressing dissatisfaction over Commerce Minister Anand Sharma's reply. In all, 19 members did not vote on the motion.
One member, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, was away in Kolkata playing a match against England. Murli Deora (Congres), who is unwell, and rebel BJD leader Pyari Mohan Mahapatra were also absent.
The final tally came late at night after scrutiny of votes by Rajya Sabha Secretariat due to glitches in the automatic vote recording system. The earlier figure was 123 against the motion and 109 in its favour.
UPA has 94 members in the Upper House which has an effective strength of 244.
The vote capped a two-day animated debate during which the Opposition attacked the proposal to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail while the government strongly justified it saying it was in the best interest of the country.
The defeat of the motion moved by AIADMK member V Maitreyan in the Rajya Sabha came two days after the Lok Sabha voted out a similar motion.
The government’s victory paves the way for foreign equity in multi-brand retail in the country, a move seen as a major step forward in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's economic reforms process.
With this, global brands like Carrefour, Tesco and Wal-Mart can now set up stores in India.
As a disappointed Opposition claimed "moral victory" on the strength of the speeches made in the House over two days, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said after the vote: "Our reforms are on track."
Addressing the House during the debate, Commerce and Industries Minister Anand Sharma hit back at the Opposition and said the government had been "talking to everyone, farmers, traders, consumers, states".
Sharma slammed the Opposition for saying the FDI did not have the support of most MPs even if the final vote went in favour of the treasury benches.
"We challenge them," he said. "If we are a minority government, let them bring a no-confidence motion (against us)."
The government also held inter-ministerial consultations on the issue, heard the recommendations and then took the decision, Sharma said.
After the Parliament defeat, Communist leader D Raja accused the UPA government of "brazenly" identifying itself "with multinationals and then claims it is with aam admi". "The sense of the house is against FDI."
The AIADMK gave a "solemn assurance" that the next central government would reverse the FDI decision.
AIADMK leader V Maitreyan said the final vote on the issue would be cast by the people in the next election.
"I give a solemn assurance that after the next Lok Sabha elections, the next government will reverse the decision of the UPA.
"FDI will only be on paper and will not be implemented in states," he added.
The government’s move to provide 51 percent foreign equity in multi-brand retail has long been a contentious issue, stalling almost the entire first two weeks of the Winter Session of Parliament.
(With Agency inputs)