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FDI vote: Debate resumes, all eyes on SP,BSP

New Delhi: The crucial debate on Foreign Direct Investment in the multi-brand retail resumed in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday and the house is all set to hold voting under Rule 184.

Even if the government has left no stone unturned to woo the parties for their support to the FDI for the vote, the suspense still prevails whether the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will bailout the UPA-led Congress government.

The Samajwadi Party said that it was against the move but would not do anything to "trouble the UPA government".

 

Govt woos parties

The government on Wednesday said it was in touch with various parties for their support.

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"We are in touch with all (parties). We have requested them to support us. FDI will not hurt the interests of farmers or small traders. In fact it will help them," Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shulka told reporters outside Parliament House.
His remarks come hours before Lok Sabha is to take up voting on a motion moved by opposition parties against government's decision allowing 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail.
 
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had asked the two parties to support the motion, saying their fears that the government could fall were unfounded.

SP, BSP remain vague

SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav cautioned the Congress that the FDI decision would hurt its poll prospects and benefit the BJP, as he and BSP leader Dara Singh Chauhan counseled the government not to rush with its implementation.

Both parties, whose support is crucial for UPA, termed as "fraud" the government's contention that the FDI decision would lead to job creation and saw it as a "conspiracy" to finish off the 25 crore small traders in the country.

Yadav and Chauhan went to the extent of invoking Mahatma Gandhi in expressing opposition to FDI, with the SP chief telling Congress President Sonia Gandhi that she should give "weightage" at least to her surname and defer the move.

Chauhan said his party will disclose on Wednesday the way it will vote. "We are seriously thinking about whether to stand with the communal forces or not," he said.

Yadav too was silent on the voting issue even as he told the government, "The role of the Opposition is to give suggestions and we are doing that. We are suggesting that you give up the FDI decision," he said.

Rollback FDI, demands BJP

Slamming the government, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanded withdrawal of the FDI decision in national interest fearing it would render retailers jobless, impoverish farmers and hurt consumers.

Initiating the debate on the issue, Swaraj contended that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha in 2002, had opposed FDI in retail and questioned as to what has changed that the government is so determined to implement it.

Pressing for rollback of the "disastrous" FDI decision, she told the government "hum aapko hara ke jeetna nahin chahte, hum aapko mana ke jeetna chahte (We don't want the rollback by defeating you. We want the rollback by convincing you)," she said.

In her nearly 90-minute speech, punctuated by repeated disruptions and heated exchanges, Swaraj maintained that the concept of large supermarkets has failed in Western economies and wondered how the government was claiming it would create jobs in India.

She asserted that BJP was not opposed to FDI per se and as Leader of the Opposition she was willing to travel with the Prime Minister across the world to invite investments in other sectors like infrastructure. Singh was present when she spoke.

BJP appeals SP, BSP
Appealing to parties like SP and BSP to support the motion moved by her and Khagen Das (CPI-M) against 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail, Swaraj said any defeat during vote will not bring down the government but will force it to rollback the decision on FDI.

"Your fear that the government will fall because of this vote is unfounded," she said turning to members of SP and BSP, who have maintained ambiguity over their stand on voting.

BJP politicising FDI: Govt

On the government's behalf, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal accused the opposition of trying to score political points by objecting to FDI in retail and asserted that the decision would benefit farmers, small scale industries, youth and consumers in the country.

Justifying the FDI decision, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal attacked Swaraj and accused the BJP of doing a flip-flop on the issue.

He said when the NDA was is power, it had overruled the opinion of the Planning Commission to favour FDI in retail, which BJP had promised to roll out in its manifesto for the 2004 and 2009 elections.

Sibal asserted that the FDI decision would benefit farmers, small scale industries, youth and consumers in the country and charged BJP and Left parties with ignoring "ground reality" and helping commission agents.

DMK against FDI, but will vote in favour

DMK leader T K S Elangovan said his party was strongly against FDI but "we will still not vote against you.... we will not let you down. We will not join the Opposition, we will not join the BJP...We will watch you and correct you."

Elangovan said it was with the government only because "it is the need of the hour to save the fiscal condition of the states.

"So, we do not want to let you down. Secondly, we do not want to join the Opposition, we do not want to join the BJP. We are not neutral. We are against the FDI in multi-brand retail," he said.

Elangovan said the DMK does not want to oppose the government or vote against it because "we know that only the hand is injured and we do not want to put you for a whole body scan."

"So, we have time. We are with you. We will watch you and we will correct you as and when necessary because we have to face the people. One or two things may be not in the interest of the people for which we do not want to let you down. While registering my strong opposition to the FDI in multi-brand retail, I also support the government," he said.

JPN/Agencies

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