Oppn stalls Parliament over Walmart 'lobbying' report

The issue of retail giant Wal-Mart lobbying in the US for access to Indian markets led to a storm in Parliament for the second straight day today with parties demanding time-bound probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee or a judicial panel to ascertain if bribe was paid here.

UPA's outside supporters RJD and Samajwadi Party, which last week bailed out the ruling coalition in FDI in retail matter, were among those demanding a thorough probe into reports that money was spent in India.

The demand for JPC probe was made by BJP, JD(U), AIADMK, Trinamool Congress, RJD and CPI while SP sought a judicial inquiry as they contended that the country had been put to shame. They insisted that the probe should be time-bound.

The uproar over this issue, coupled with the SP's opposition to a bill on providing reservation to SCs/STs in government job promotions, prevented both Houses of Parliament from undertaking any significant business.

BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said in the Lok Sabha that the government should order JPC or even judicial probe, failing which the House would not be allowed to function.

The demands were made even after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the government "views the reports (on Wal-Mart) with the utmost concern" and would not hesitate to order a probe to unravel facts of the matter.

"We have no hesitation in having an inquiry to get to the facts of the matter. We will announce further steps in the House today," Nath said in the Lok Sabha while seeking to placate the Opposition.

Wal-Mart had, in its disclosures to the US Senate, said it had spent USD 25 million over four years for various lobbying activities, including for gaining access to Indian markets.

Sinha said there were reports that Wal-Mart engaged lobbying firms to get entry into India and "spent money here".

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