New Delhi, Dec 5: Helped by the walkout of MPs loyal to arch rivals Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, the UPA government defeated Sushma Swaraj's motion on FDI in Lok Sabha on Wednesday evening. The Bahujan Samaj Party with 21 MPs walked out first and they were followed by Samajwadi Party's 22 MPs.
With that walkout, the halfway mark for an emphatic victory came to 251 and the government managed to get 253 of the total 471 votes in its favour as compared to 218.
Before the vote, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj mocked the walkout of SP and BSP and claimed a moral victory. She also chided IT Minister Kapil Sibal whose Parliamentary constituency Chandani Chowk here is trading hub with small traders and they were all opposed to the policy of FDI.
Making it clear that the policy on FDI (foreign direct investment) in multi-brand retail is "only an enabling policy" and the state governments are free to take their own decisions, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma concluded the debate on the contentious issue on Wednesday.
Sharma's reply on behalf of the government came after repeated uproar in Parliament with barbs flying all over. The government stayed firm and insisted that relevant factors have been taken into account before allowing foreign retailers to open stores in India, to ensure investors are protected irrespective of who comes to power.
The much-talked about debate on FDI in retail in the Lok Sabha saw SP and BSP joining the Opposition in slamming the government but eventually staying away from voting even as UPA ally DMK vowed not to rock the boat despite its opposition to the policy.
There was pandemonium as RJD's Lalu Yadav made some direct attacks and opposed the motion to block FDI.
Lalu Yadav asked, "Nescafe peene walon, poocho Advaniji se Twitter ka istemal kyun kartein hain, woh videshi nahi hain kya."
Taking potshots at the BJP with Gujarat elections in mind, he said, "I don't even keep a cell phone, these people (BJP) keep it next to their hearts. They travel in fancy cars, coupe in trains." Their (BJP) PM candidate travels all over the world inviting FDI in his state but they say they are against FDI, said Lalu, making indirect reference to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Gurudas Dasgupta of CPI was strongly against FDI as he felt that "the government wants to signal to MNCs that India is a favoured destination for foreign investment."
Dasgupta said the PM was ready to sacrifice the government for Wal-Mart.
BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said, "Wal-Mart will not increase competition; it will destroy markets". He also refuted Kapil Sibal's remark and made it clear "FDI in retail was not in the manifesto of BJP in 2004 or 2009. How can Kapil Sibal put his thoughts in our manifesto?"
Supporting the government, NCP leader Praful Patel reminded the opposition party that "we had sent back Coca Cola. But it was allowed back in; the company acquired Parle's Thums Up and tried to replace it with Coke. But Thums Up is still more popular in India than Coca Cola". "Even India businesses are taking over foreign companies."
"Why are you not opposing malls? Because your leaders are constructing malls," Patel asked pointing at the Opposition benches.
JD(U)'s Sharad Yadav said the government is concerned only about the market, not the country.
CPI(M)'s Basudeb Acharia felt FDI in retail will lead to unemployment. He asked the government to rethink over it.
"Will welcome FDI only if it increases productivity," Acharia said.