The winter session of the Parliament has reached almost midway without concrete work and nobody knows if war of words between the ruling party and the Opposition could cease. Notwithstanding the Parliament is not further disrupted, legislative works will hardly be finished in rest of the session. This is not the first time that the proceeding of the Parliament has been paralysed. The House has witnessed the similar instance in earlier too. The work of the government has got stuck due to improper functioning of the House for the last one year and the Opposition is now capitalizing on it. Unambiguously, the government has shown its slackness for the last one year, but now the Opposition too is adding to its laxity which is disappointing. It was expected that the Opposition was would shed its skeptical approach and let the House work for the interest of the nation, but they are trying to seek political gains in the issue of FDI in retail and the ruling dispensation has also become oblivious to its responsibility of running the House without hindrance. The ruling party cannot put an end to its responsibility by blaming the Opposition for donning recalcitrance. The Opposition has also taken the similar firm stand and is creating ruckus unnecessarily on the course of discussion on the issue of FDI in retail. The significant point is that there should be a proper debate over it.

The Opposition has every right to find shortcomings in the government’s move, but a healthy discussion on the issue has to take place in the Parliament, rather than disrupting the House. The Opposition has blamed on the Centre for not being visionary, but they also need to do soul-searching for their short-sighted approach. It is sad that the Opposition, which is determined to corner the government on the issue of corruption and soaring inflation, has created much ado over the FDI in retail.  If it is assumed that the government has taken this decision in haste as well there could be some lobby of corporate world behind the decision of FDI in retail, it could not be ruled out that there are some loopholes in this move by the government. In fact this decision has been pending for a decade.  

If the Opposition has grievances that the government has not taken them into its confidence over the decision of allowing foreign companies to get entry into the retail sector, this could be sorted out through discussion in the House, but on the contrary they are not allowing the Parliament to function. The ruling party has also compounded the problem by stating that there is nothing wrong in its stand. It is understandable that the Left Front is principally against the arrival of foreign companies, but it is intriguing why the BJP is making hue and cry. It is not fair that the BJP is creating fuss over FDI in retail as the saffron party had expressed the necessity of investment of foreign companies in the retail business during the NDA regime. Now, the BJP has given rationale that farmers and retail business will get affected with the arrival of foreign companies in the retail market. But this logic stands nullified, as domestic companies are working multi-brand retail for many years and no issue was raised that they affected farmers and retailers. The BJP is ignoring the interests of consumers who are several times higher than the numbers of retailers in the country. Will the arrival of foreign companies not beneficial to consumers? The Indian retailers are not so weak that they will fail to cope with offshore units.  In fact they have proved their mettle. Undoubtedly, there is no bar on framing such a rule which could check the highhandedness of foreign companies. If the domestic retail companies could not affect small businessmen, what is the ground of speculation that foreign companies in retail market will bring storm?

No one can ignore it that despite the availability of foreign brands in retail business as well as the presence of domestic companies with the help of offshore entities in retail sector, small traders are still playing a significant role. If there is an increase in competition, they can remove their weakness and become more competent, which will directly benefit consumers. The Opposition must not forget it that the competition in business enhances the efficiency of traders and proves beneficial to consumers. One of the rationales cited by the BJP against FDI in retail is the exploitation of the farmers by foreign companies, but the fact is that the main problem of farmers is lack of options for selling their products. Whenever there is a good crop, the farmers have to incur a loss. Currently, most of the farmers in UP and Punjab are compelled to perish potatoes in their farm.

There is no merit in the logic of the BJP that it is not right time for FDI in retail. Will they explain about the right time for the FDI in retail, the decision has already been made a decade late? Is not it right that foreign retail companies have already entered in the countries like India? Creating unnecessary fuss, the BJP and other Opposition parties cannot ignore fact that foreign companies are proactive in telecom and other fields, which are not affecting Indian interests. The kind of logic given by the Opposition regarding foreign retail companies is sheer ridiculous, because the world hails India as a rising superpower.

If the Opposition had not created hoopla over the FDI in retail rather it had gone for a proper discussion in the House, the scene of Bharat Bandh launched by associations of traders would have been different. It is known about people and parties responsible for disruption in the Parliament. Both the ruling party and the Opposition are accountable for this unparliamentry act. The Opposition cannot shrug off stating that the Parliament is not functioning because of the ruling dispensation. In a bid to tarnish the image of the ruling party, the BJP should not cross the limit jeopardising the national interests. On similar note, the ruling party could not shy away from the fact that they are supposed to take extra pains for proper functioning of the House.             
(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on December 4, 2011 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)