The parliamentary debate on foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail reminded one of the time when Rajiv Gandhi propagated bringing computers into the everyday lives of people, and when Indira Gandhi endorsed colour televisions. India’s Opposition parties have not managed to rise beyond the political narratives of the early and mid-twentieth century when Mahatma Gandhi was leading the fight against British rule. The political realities of those times were different. But today’s Opposition leaders have not carried forward the intellectual creativity and the ideas and initiatives of the nation’s founding fathers. They have not added value to the fundamentals upon which the nation was formed. They just churn out the same rhetoric.
This hypocrisy is even more shameful because in their personal dealings, these leaders grab for themselves all the comforts that come with a free market economy. They are determined not to share these benefits with the millions of ordinary people who keep them in power. It would help if certain leaders got out of their imported cars and returned to the bullock cart, the swadeshi mode of transport that they loudly endorse. They should give up their flat-screen televisions, air-conditioners and branded shoes. Moreover, they should move out of their palatial, modern homes in the villages and go live in huts and sleep on khaats like the ordinary folk do.
These old timers, who fancy themselves to be the upholders of the legacies of India’s nationalism, heritage and culture have consistently allowed the death of every traditional craft skill. They have permitted the proliferation of plastic and nylon. They have allowed cities and towns to be brutalized by crooked municipalities, historical monuments to be mutilated and degraded, rivers to be polluted and dammed and forests to be ruined. They have partnered with the people and the institutions that have led to this damage, and have benefited from the — often illegal — spoils.
It was obvious, while listening to elected representatives speak on FDI, that the Congress came out on top in the debate. The speakers argued well and were convincing in their attempts to move ahead. Kapil Sibal, Deepender Hooda and Anand Sharma among others defeated their opponents with ease. They spoke the language of today. Are the Opposition parties worried that the states ruled by them may begin to demand FDI in retail because they may not want to lag behind the Congress-ruled states? Even senior citizens like me feel energetic enough to work for change when they hear the likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav talk about their views on socio-economic issues. I shudder to think that that generation and mindset may rule the country again.
It was obvious that the Opposition leaders were hoping to grab votes and no more. Their contribution to the debate was superficial and simplistic. This was probably because they were not convinced of their own proclamations. The leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, even said that McDonald’s imports potatoes from abroad. The fact that many leaders do not know real facts and just rely on the same rhetoric to win points in a debate does not augur well. It is here that the Congress leaders scored. The Opposition’s political posturing and inadequate knowledge can be detrimental to this nation.
FDI in retail is a state subject and cannot be implemented if a state government chooses not to. Therefore, Congress-ruled states will see an upturn in agricultural infrastructure, which in itself is reason enough to adopt FDI, with safeguards in place. State governments led by Opposition parties are free to carry on as they are till their states demand that they look to the future.