FDI debate in Lok Sabha: As it happened

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New Delhi, December 4, 2012:

FDI debate in Lok Sabha: As it happened

14:29 Lok Sabha begins debate on FDI on multi-brand retail.

Sushma Swaraj begins the debate under rule 184. “The government has gone back on its promise for a consensus on FDI on retail. Pranab Mukherjee had assured us there would be a discussion on FDI and decision would be suspended till a consensus had been reached.
Swaraj, always masterful in debate, chooses two words to put forth her point of view — Consensus and Consultation. She says the BJP is the main opposition party, but they were never even consulted neither has the government made any attempt to reach a consensus.

14:44 : Sushma Swaraj holds forth in the Lok Sabha as she debates why the government should not allow FDI in retail. Not a peep out of any MP and for once, there is order in the house. Going back to the consultation and consensus theme, Swaraj says, “We are stubborn because the government has refused to consult us.”

14:54 : “FDI in retail will promote predatory pricing by big retailers and affect the end user. Monopoly will hurt consumers. Big retailers will never compromise on profits,” says Swaraj. “McDonald’s refuses to buy potatoes from our farmers in Agra because the size of the potatoes do not fit their requirments. As a result, the farmers are forced to sell stocks at low prices,” she says. “Apple farmers from Himachal Pradesh will come to your door (industries minister Anand Sharma) beating their heads in frustration. What will you do then?” she asks with furrowed brows.

15:00 Indian farmer will NOT benefit, assures Sushma: Sushma warns that MNCs will give assurances and promises but break them at will. “They will come up with excuses not to buy local stock. Shiploads of potatoes are being unloaded so that McDonald’s can use potatoes of the ‘right’ size. MNCs always import produce,” she says reading out from the EU’s declaration on hypermarkets and exploitation of farmers.

The long and short if what she is saying is that the Indian farmer will NOT benefit from FDI.

15:15 BJP: No middlemen in sugarcane, but farmers suffer : Congress MPs disrupt Sushma Swaraj’s speech in the Lok Sabha over the issue of sugarcane farmers. She says there are no middlemen in the sugarcane industry, yet farmers suffer. BJP members say they will disrupt speeches by the UPA MPs as well. Speaker restores order.

Kiran Bedi tweets: Amazing clarity with which Sushma Swaraj is speaking+clarifying negative consequences of FDi. Shall wait to hear its counter similarly!

Sougata Roy of the TMC will speak after this, followed by a CPM MP.

15:28 Sushma scolds UPA: Listen, this is important!: Eight-four per cent of sales from Walmart came at the cost of existing local businesses, says Sushma Swaraj reading out from a report. Industries and commerce minister Anand Sharma smiles. Swaraj admonishes him, “This is important, listen carefully,” she says. Chastised, Sharma nods his head and the smile vanishes.

Swaraj is now quoting at will from various websites:
“India will be flooded with Chinese products.”
“Records show 84% local jobs lost after Walmart’s entry in Iowa, US.”
“Obama took his kids Sasha and Malia to a small book store to promote small businesses.”
“Walmart requires 36000 stores to create 40 lakh jobs. Walmart is a flop in the US.”
“Walmart’s expansion has killed small stores in the US.”

15:37 FDI debate: BJP pulls out Nehru, Rajiv, Dasmunshi: Sushma Swaraj now reads out a clipping from the Associated Press on how the Walmart store in Mexico is involved in an alleged payout to local politicians. “Walmart is alleged to have paid bribes to do business in India. Why are we doing this? Ex-Cong chief whip Priyaranjan Das Munshi had opposed FDI in retail, why has the government’s stance changed so drastically?” she asks the Prime Minister.

16:16 TMC quotes Tagore, debate moves to UPA: In Parliament Trinamool MP Saugata Roy has ends his debate. Roy compliments Swaraj and then does a flashback to the no-trust vote. Opposition benches listen in with stony silence. Roy then says how ‘Chinas’ and the ‘Americas’ will only benefit from FDI and not India. He then draws on Rabindranath Tagore, the last bastion of the Bengali and says, “I’m from Bengal the place where Siraj-ud-daulah lost the Battle of Plassey. As Tagore said, ‘they came as traders and became kings’,” he says.

16:24 UPA: Sushmaji is chatting, not listening to debate: Kapil Sibal says tongue-in-cheek, “If we bring in FDI, India will be sold to foreign invaders. Please remember that only 53 cities qualify for FDI, so it affects just 18 states. If you don’t want it in other states, don’t bring it in. Retail FDI is only in cities with a population of 10 lakh and above. In states where the chief ministers wants FDI, let there be FDI. You want to sink, but you want the other states to sink as well. What is this debate about? This debate is happening only because the issue is being politicised. Retail FDI is optional, we have decided this earlier.”

Uproar, as expected. Parliamentary Affairs minsiter Kamal Nath appeals to the Leader of the Opposition to allow the debate. “But Sushmaji is chatting, she is not even listening. Please allow the debate to take place.”

16:33 Sibal punches holes in BJP’s arguments: So Sibal’s defence on FDI is that the choice rests with the state governments and that the BJP’s claims are exaggerated.
Pandemonium prevails, tempers flair in the Lok Sabha.
Sibal begins a point-by-point rebuttal. Sibal cites Walmart’s failure in China to rebut Swaraj’s claim that Walmart kills local businesses, implying that it is always successful.
Sibal quotes BJP’s Jaswant Singh in 2004, from the party’s manifesto: “Don’t underestimate the Indian sherbet, it will survive and survives drinks like Pepsi and Coca Cola. We will allow foreign investment in the unincorporated sector.”

Sibal thunders, “Tell us, How will foreign investors invest in the unincorporated sector? Who is willing to invest in villages. It’s been eight years and we are still waiting for an answer.”

16:45 Decide if you are with farmers or middlemen: UPA: “We are the second largest producers of fruit and vegetables in the world — we produce 200 million tonnes of produce. But out his 40 per cent is wasted — 80 million tonnes! Calculate the loss yourself,” Sibal tells Opposition MPs who are baying in unison. Meira Kumar stands up and admonishes them, “What do you want me to do! Let the minister speak. Baith jaiye.”
MPs fall in line and Sibal continues.

“The purpose of the FDI policy is that farmer should get a higher price when his produce gets to the market. But there are eight commission agents in between him and the market. Farmers just get 15 to 17 per cent for his produce. FDI will ensure a higher price for his produce. Now, now (reiterated for effect) the Opposition should decide whether they are with the farmers or with the middlemen,” says Sibal. Bench thumping and cheering in the Treasury benches.

“When you are in the Opposition you suddenly become Swadeshi, what is this? This is your stance?” asks Sibal.

17:02 You speak so well, we tend to believe you: Sibal to Swaraj: Sibal reads out reports from business newspapers and a Forbes report which says that Walmart has failed to take off in China. “”Walmart, Carrefour struggling in China despite 100 per cent FDI,” says Sibal. Sushma Swaraj looks pained as Sibal picks holes in her debate.”When you speak, you speak so well, that we tend to believe everything you say,” Sibal tells Swaraj. Swaraj stands up and says she will reply to Sibal tomorrow during the ‘right to reply’.

“You are against the youth, the consumers, the farmers. Who else are you against?” he asks Swaraj and the Opposition in general.

Sibal then says he will talk about his constituency, Chandni Chowk where 40 per cent of people have only cycles, while the other 40 per cent have scooters. “Walmart is not going to get space in Chandni Chowk to set up shop. It will be far away in the NCR area. They are not going to travel 30 km to NCR.

17:11 ‘Oppn only thinks about when they will occupy our benches’: Kapil Sibal, a consummate lawyer with debating skills to match, ends his debate with this stinger that has little do with FDI. “We don’t make our policies depending on whether we are sitting on this side in Parliament (treasury benches) or that side (opposition benches). When we sit here, we look beyond you, to the people outside Parliament who deserve a better life. Our policies are for a better India.

When you look at us you look at these seats and think, about the time when you will come here (treasury benches) and occupy these seats.” Applause from the Congress benches.

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav speaking now, opposing FDI. He says he is not in favour of FDI in retail. Observers say that — in case of a retail FDI vote — the government may get the support of sections such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which aren’t part of the ruling coalition but have previously supported the government in times of crisis.
Observers say that, even if they don’t support the government, they could abstain from voting to ensure that the government wins.

17:21 PM Mulayam anti FDI but with riders: Mulayam Singh Yadav’s debating skills are no match for Kapil Sibal’s. Mulayam says that though the SP is opposed to FDI, he will not go with all the arguments made by the Opposition. Drawing on examples of Pepsi and Coca Cola, he says,  when it entered India, “we were told that farmers are going to benefit, but not a single farmer has benefited. In fact, it is to the contrary. Farmers have benefited by their own efforts not because a MNC has set up shop in their area,”he says.

17:46 SP blows aam admi bugle, FDI anti poor : More on what Mulayam Singh said in Parliament: “Government must roll back FDI it will not benefit the nation. How will small businessmen compete with big retail houses? All FDI will do is increase poverty in the country and lead to massive unemployment.”

Rebutting Kapil Sibal’s claim that only cities with 10 lakh population and above will be allowed to attract FDI, Mulayam Singh says that small places have poor traders who will not be able to sustain business.”

Looking at Sonia Gandhi, he said, “You seem to be forgetting Swadeshi and you are looking at foreign formulas to detriment of the aam admi.” The Samajwadi Party wants an all-party meet on FDI.



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