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Foreign is fair as Lalu pops FDI pill

Patna, Dec. 8: “Foreign” is no longer a cuss word for Lalu Prasad.

From the days in the 1990s when he used to ask people to shun everything foreign before the country became a signatory of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the RJD chief has, after the voting in Parliament on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, only good things to say about foreign goods.

“The retail giants will provide hygienic and unadulterated products to the consumers,” Lalu said today, a day after UPA won the voting on FDI in Rajya Sabha.

“If FDI is allowed in multi-brand trade, then people can get hygienic products from the big stores. We often hear complaints of adulterated milk, khoya, green vegetables, fruits and spices being sold in market. Once the retail giants become operational in the country, we will get rid of adulterated products. We will certainly get quality products,” Lalu told reporters after addressing party workers at his 10, Circular Road residence in the state capital.

Lalu, who along with wife Rabri Devi, ruled the state for 15 years, was, however, prompt to add that he still used raw spices while preparing food at home.

Asked how FDI would benefit the poor, the RJD chief avoided a direct answer. “You tell me how it would harm them.”

Though Lalu was all praise for FDI in retail trade, cracks were evident in the RJD over the issue during the debate in Parliament with senior party leader and Vaishali MP Raghuvansh Prasad Singh refusing to vote in favour of the motion. Raghuvansh even spoke against his party’s decision to support FDI in retail, claiming that it would harm small traders.

The JD(U), sensing the differences, was prompt in its attempt to cash in on the rift and rural works department minister Bhim Singh virtually invited him leader to join the ruling party.

Lalu was cautious in his words while reacting to the differences. He defended his move to support FDI but said “Raghuvansh Babu” had not done anything that could be described as “anti-party”. The former chief minister said: “There was no whip at all. Mulayam Singh Yadav and the BSP walked out of the Lower House during the debate. This eventually helped the UPA government. So did Raghuvansh Prasad Singh. He abstained from voting in the Lok Sabha.” Lalu added that despite getting a nod from Parliament, it was on the states to decide whether or not to allow FDI in multi-brand retail.

A section in the RJD, however, feels that that the party, which had its ideologies based on the teachings of socialists like Jai Prakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia — should not have supported FDI.

Earlier in the day, Lalu met RJD MPs, MLAs, MLCs and former legislators and Parliamentarians and discussed the the party’s organisational affairs and chalk out a strategy to launch a movement against the “failures” of the state government.