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M&M slam FDI but mum on vote

New Delhi/Bhubaneswar, Dec. 4 (PTI): The debate on FDI in retail today saw the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party joining the Opposition in slamming the government over it. Both parties, however, were silent on voting tomorrow even as the UPA ally, the DMK, vowed not to rock the boat despite its opposition to the move.

Samajwadi 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 counselled the government not to rush with its implementation. Both parties, whose support is crucial for the 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.

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 would reveal its decision on voting tomorrow. “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.”

In Odisha, the BJD has asked its MPs to vote against the UPA on the FDI issue.

Odisha’s ruling party today issued a three-line whip to its MPs in this regard. The BJD has 14 MPs in the Lok Sabha and seven in the Upper House.

The party’s stand is in keeping with the rest of the Opposition, which has closed ranks on the issue. The party had also supported the no-confidence motion notice given by the Trinamul Congress on the FDI issue in the Lok Sabha last month. The motion, however, fell through because the Trinamul failed to garner the requisite support in its favour.

BJD sources said its voting against the UPA along with the BJP and its allies might appear to compromise the regional party’s declared policy of maintaining an equal distance from both the Congress and the BJP. But, the party has chosen to take the risk in the larger interest of the people likely to be hit by the entry of foreign players in the retail sector.

DMK leader T.K.S. Elangovan said his party was strongly against the 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.”

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. Accusing the Opposition of trying to score political points by objecting to the FDI in retail, telecom minister Kapil Sibal speaking on the government’s behalf asserted the decision would benefit farmers, small-scale industries, youth and consumers in the country.

Initiating the debate, Swaraj contended that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha in 2002 had opposed the FDI in retail and questioned 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)”.

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

She said the BJP was not opposed to the 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 such as infrastructure. Singh was present when she spoke.

Appealing to parties like the SP and the BSP to support the motion moved by her and Khagen Das (CPM) against 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, Swaraj said any defeat during vote would not bring down the government, but would force it to rollback the decision. “Your fear that the government will fall because of this vote is unfounded,” she said turning to members of the SP and the BSP, who have maintained ambiguity over their stand on voting.