Speaker Meira Kumar rejects BJP, Left demand for separate debates on FDI, FEMA

Meira Kumar

Initiating the debate on the issue, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj contended that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha in 2002, had opposed FDI in retail and questioned as to what has changed that the government is so determined to implement it.

In her nearly 90-minute speech, punctuated by repeated disruptions and heated exchanges, Swaraj maintained that the concept of large supermarkets has failed in Western economies and wondered how the government was claiming it would create jobs in India.

She asserted that BJP was not opposed to FDI per se and as Leader of the Opposition she was willing to travel with the Prime Minister across the world to invite investments in other sectors like infrastructure. Singh was present when she spoke.

Appealing to parties like SP and BSP to support the motion moved by her and Khagen Das (CPI-M) against 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, Swaraj said any defeat during vote will not bring down the government but will force it to rollback the decision on FDI.

"Your fear that the government will fall because of this vote is unfounded," she said turning to members of SP and BSP, which have so far maintained ambiguity over their stand on voting.

Pressing for rollback of the "disastrous" FDI decision, she told the government "hum aapko hara ke jeetna nahin chahte, hum aapko mana ke jeetna chahte (We don't want the rollback by defeating you. We want the rollback by convincing you)," she said.

Swaraj said the decision to allow FDI in retail was not a step towards development but a leap into a ditch of "destruction."

Referring to statements made by the government that FDI in retail would empower consumers, she said large superstores will wipe out small retailers by first dropping prices and then charging higher prices once there is no competition.

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