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‘Mislead’ salvo at Modi on FDI

New Delhi, March 4: A Union minister today accused Narendra Modi of citing fictitious figures on foreign investments in Gujarat, advertising steps already taken by the UPA government as his future “vision”, and misleading the nation on his party’s stand on FDI in retail.

Commerce minister Anand Sharma was referring to Modi’s recent advice to traders to integrate with the “global order” and embrace online shopping, which is being seen as an attempt to keep the post-poll door open for FDI in retail. The BJP, however, opposes any such reform and Arun Jaitley has ruled out a change of heart.

Sharma milked the contradiction, saying: “The BJP should promise in its manifesto to open FDI in retail with an apology in the preamble as it opposed the same when our government did it.”

He cited how Rajasthan’s BJP government had recently written to the Centre withdrawing the state’s consent to FDI in retail, granted by the erstwhile Congress government of Ashok Gehlot.

“If Modi is sincere, he should asků Vasundhara Raje to withdraw this letter. Rajasthan, anyway, cannot change its stand now after the policy has been notified. India is not a banana republic where a change of government will alter sovereign commitments,” Sharma said.

He recalled how the BJP had tried to block FDI in retail after the Centre had consulted the states and parties and obtained the consent of the majority of stakeholders, including consumers and agricultural associations.

The Congress wants the BJP to come clean on the issue before the election as Modi’s reformist credentials rest on his touted economic vision. If the BJP changes its stance to suit Modi, it could be seen as a loss of face.

Sharma also asked why Modi had led the opposition to the goods and services tax (GST) if he were the reformer he claimed to be.

The minister emphasised the UPA government’s reformist credentials, saying FDI had risen to 100 per cent in certain sectors and that a proposal for FDI in railways would come up before the cabinet soon.

Sharma also accused Modi of unveiling as his economic vision “what has already been done (by the UPA government)”.

“That’s not vision, that’s political plagiarism. He talked about future cities; we are already setting up 16 such (national industrial manufacturing) cities,” he said.

“While 16 such cities have been notified, the land acquisition, master plan and engineering for eight have already been done. We have already declared the national manufacturing policy, and the industrial corridors coming up are acclaimed the world over. He talks of bullet trains; we have already made Metro rail.”

Sharma added: “He talks about 5T (talent, tradition, tourism, trade and technology) and 3D. These words have existed in the dictionary for a long time and the people of India can’t be fooled this way.”

The minister said that Reserve Bank figures on FDI did not match Modi’s claims about investments at his Vibrant Gujarat summits. He accused the chief minister of citing figures for the state that surpassed even the total FDI in the country.

Sharma said Maharashtra had received the highest FDI, $65 billion, in the country between 2000 and 2013, followed by Delhi ($38 billion), Chennai and Bangalore — Ahmedabad came only after them with $9 billion.

One key feature of the Congress poll campaign will be to accuse Modi of furnishing incorrect information and figures. The party has added to its official website a chapter titled “Fact check” that targets Modi’s claims on economic, political and historical matters.