NEW DELHI: Bracing for the crucial vote on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, the government on Thursday got a shot in the arm with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) extending support to it, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) attacked it and other such parties for siding with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) despite being opposed to the move.
Samajwadi Party, whose support would be dearly required by UPA, however, maintained ambiguity over its stance during voting while asking the government to do a rethink on the
The controversial decision on FDI, which was approved convincingly by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, was hotly debated in an animated manner in the 244-member Upper House where the ruling UPA does not have a majority of its own as its strength is only 94 and is heavily dependent on parties like BSP and SP.
Announcing her party’s support to UPA’s decision on FDI, BSP chief, Ms Mayawati said, "We have decided to vote in favour of government on FDI in multi-brand retail issue tomorrow." BSP has 15 members in the Rajya Sabha and the party had on Wednesday staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha, helping bail out the government on the vote. During the day-long debate that was punctuated by clashes, accusations and counter-accusations, Ms Mayawati said she backs the FDI policy since it "has a plus point as it is not binding on states and they are free to implement it." Mr Naresh Agrawal of SP, which has nine members, asked the government to have a rethink on the FDI decision, saying it would hurt farmers and small traders, particularly those living in villages. "We have neither taken the responsibility to save this government nor to bring it down," he said, suggesting that Friday’s voting can even be avoided.
Mr Agrawal, whose party is in power in Uttar Pradesh, said FDI would not be allowed in the state as it would destroy the livelihood of farmers. In this context, he cited the example of how VAT was not implemented by the party’s previous government. The NCP leader, Mr Y P Trivedi, whose party is a constituent of UPA and a partner in the Maharashtra government, disapproved of efforts to create a scare over FDI but said its implementation in the state would be decided by Congress-NCP Coordination Committee after assessing its likely impact.
The Law Minister, Mr Ashwani Kumar, who was the first to speak on the issue on government’s behalf, said UPA has taken a "conscious decision" on FDI in multi-brand retail and "at this stage of economic development and growth, permitting FDI is a national imperative." Mr Kumar said the move will be able to enlist a significant amount of investment in backyard infrastructure which is required to create warehouses and cold chains so that the produce of farmers does not go waste.
The leader of the Opposition, Mr Arun Jaitley attacked BSP as also SP, DMK and NCP for helping the government in voting despite reservations to the policy. Bahujan Samaj Party was the main target of Mr Jaitley, who said, "You know that this policy is harmful to the country. If you are willing to proclaim, you should be willing to strike." The leader of the Opposition raised questions on continuation of the UPA government, saying it has failed to touch the figure of 272 and has fallen short of 18 of a majority in the Lower House during voting on FDI. "After this figure, you are a lame duck government" and questioned how much price the nation would have to pay for the decision of a "minority" government.
Ms Mayawati reacted sharply to the remarks that her party was helping the government under CBI pressure saying the main opposition party is levelling such allegations after it found out that "grapes were sour" as its game plan did not succeed. Her remarks led to noisy scenes in the House as BJP demanded the remarks to be expunged but the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Kamal Nath said there was nothing unparliamentary in what the BSP chief has said.