New Delhi, Dec 7 (PTI): The motion against foreign direct investment (FDI) in multibrand retail was defeated in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, with 109 voting in favour and 123 voting against the motion.
The United Progressive Alliance government’s victory came after a heated debate during which the Opposition accused commerce minister Anand Sharma of misleading the House.
The uproar led to abrupt adjournment of the House for over an hour while the Minister was speaking on the motion moved against bringing FDI in retail sector.
Trouble started when Sharma read out excerpts of a Planning Commission report citing recommendations of a Committee headed by N K Singh during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime in 2002. According to the excerpts read out by Sharma, Singh had suggested up to 100 per cent FDI in retail as it will benefit both consumers and farmers.
Singh, now a member of the Janata Dal (United), rose to counter Sharma's contention. The chair did not allow Singh to speak, following which the entire opposition, including members from Left, Trinamul Congress and the NDA, were on their feet demanding that they wanted to hear Singh's version.
Arun Jaitley, leader of the Opposition, said: “The Minister has said that N K Singh in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee has supported FDI in multi-brand retail. He cannot play up one paragraph. You are reading the preamble and not the conclusion...please allow him (Singh) to speak.”
The entire opposition also supported Singh who said what the Minister read out was not the conclusion of the report and that Sharma had misled the House, for which the government should apologise. This saw BJP members raise slogans, “Anand Sharma maafi maango...Bharat Sarkar maafi maango...Anand Sharma has misled the House”.
As the din continued, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien adjourned the House till 2:30 PM.
Replying to the debate, Sharma earlier rejected the opposition contention that FDI in multi-brand retail will render small traders unemployed and damage the interests of farmers.
Sharma claimed that 11 states and major farmer and trader organisations had favoured allowing FDI in retail and claimed he had held discussions with various states before taking the decision to allow FDI.
Sharma said: “I met 14 Chief Ministers and held discussions with them. I went to Punjab and met Akali leader and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. I also met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress chief. I met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. I also wrote to all Chief Ministers and 19 of them responded.”
He claimed that discussions were also held between BJP President Nitin Gadkari and Finance Minister over lunch before taking the decision and rubbished the opposition charge that no consultation with stakeholders was held on FDI in retail.
When Jaitley interrupted him saying that he has not written to any Chief Minister or political party after the government's December 7, 2011, assurance in Parliament, Sharma said: “I can say I may be less knowledgeable, but I am not ill informed.”
Countering the opposition charge of exaggerating the figures in support of FDI in retail sector, Sharma claimed that around 35 per cent of fruits and vegetables in the country amounting to Rs 50,000 crore were wasted every year.
The Opposition challenged his numbers, claiming that Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had given a different figure and Sharma was misleading the House.
Jaitley sought to know which figure of the government was correct. When Sharma refused to yield, Jaitley said, “You yield to the truth, not to me. It is in your minister's reply.”