The Manmohan Singh-led government saved itself some possible embarrassment on Wednesday when it comfortably won the vote in the Lok Sabha on foreign investment in multi-brand retail that is seen as important step in its reform process. It also won another motion on amendments to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to facilitate its initiative.
Both the motions had been moved by the Opposition. The first, main, motion on the government’s decision to allow 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail that would allow global supermarket chains to set up shop in India was moved by the BJP and the CPI-M.
The second one opposing amendments to FEMA was moved by the Trinamool Congress. With the rival Uttar Pradesh parties, Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which prop the ruling UPA from outside, strategically walking out of the house before the vote, the government sailed through the challenges.
The halfway mark needed to win the votes was reduced with the SP’s 22 MPs and the BSP’s 21 abstaining. Propelled by the unlikely Mulayam Singh Yadav-Mayawati combination, the government won the FDI motion with a 35 vote margin — 218 votes for the opposition motion, 253 against in a house with 471 members.
The FEMA motion was won by 30 votes — in a house with 478 members, the opposition got 224 votes and the government 254. “We are very happy. We have the support of the house,” said a beaming Communications Minister Kapil Sibal while lauding the country’s ‘vibrant democracy’.
A defeated Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj slammed Mulayam Singh for walking out of the house and condemned the UPA’s ‘arrogance of power’.
The SP, which had said earlier in the morning that it was against FDI but would not do anything to “trouble the government”, said the move was “anti-farmer”.
“Five crore people in retail trade will be destroyed. This decision has ignored the interests of 20 crore farmers and their families. The decision on FDI was taken under pressure of foreign companies. This is the reason the party boycotted it,” Mulayam Singh said.
“This is not about helping or harming the government. The whole party and MPs had decided to stage a walkout. This was decided by the party and the SP will continue to oppose every wrong decision of the government,” he said.
The decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail is expected to open the doors for major global names such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco.
The vote is expected in the Rajya Sabha, upper house, tomorrow where the government does not have the numbers.
Lalu’s ‘Jamhoora’ jibe angers BJP
The Lok Sabha was on Wednesday adjourned briefly following verbal clashes between Lalu Prasad and BJP members. As soon as Lalu Prasad stood up to participate in the debate on FDI in multi-brand retail, BJP members created a ruckus. An agitated Lalu Prasad addressed BJP members as jamhoore (side-kicks), which led to protests by BJP members.