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In this Idea Exchange, Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce and Industry, speaks about FDI in retail, retrospective taxation and the party's Chintan Shivir in Jaipur. The session was moderated by Deputy Editor Subhomoy Bhattacharjee
Subhomoy Bhattacharjee: Murli Manohar Joshi has said if the BJP comes to power, it will think about rolling back FDI in multi-brand retail. There is a sense of uncertainty. Do investors reflect such concerns?
Anand Sharma: Such statements are irresponsible. In a democracy, political parties can take positions. I have explained in great detail that when the BJP-led NDA government was in office, they were planning to open up FDI in multi-brand retail. But they never had any stakeholder consultations. While for our policy, we consulted all the stakeholders, all the state governments, the farmers' unions, the consumer unions, community organisations, industry association, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). After that, the committee of secretaries met, the recommendations were considered. So the deliberations went on for over a year. It was a democratic exercise, transparent and inclusive. Now the BJP did a U-turn purely because of partisan politics. If farmers are in favour of it, consumer organisations are in favour, then whose case is the BJP pleading? Moreover, we left the decision to states. So it's for the states to decide. It is undemocratic to deny those states who have been in favour of it. The states who are not in favour can rethink and apply later. The licence is given by states. I can understand the concerns of the Left parties because they have ideological blinkers and I can't change that. Yet, when they go to China, they will shop from multi-brand retail stores. The BJP has an opportunistic agenda. Such statements do a great disservice to the country, particularly at a time when our economy is under stress and there is a slowdown. The trade deficit and current account deficit are worrisome. For financing these, there are only three ways—FDI, FII and External Commercial Borrowings. First option is FDI. So if we are taking steps which will restore the confidence of our global partners, should that be negated? The BJP owes an explanation to the country on why they have done a U-turn. This is double standards and hypocrisy. The elected government has the discretion to take an executive decision and this has been dragged to parliamentary debate which has never happened in the history of the country. And now, after having lost the vote, they are still talking about it.
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