Thursday, March 10, 2011

BJP opposes FDI in retail

New Delhi: Opening the debate on the Budget in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday afternoon, Bharatiya Janata Party's senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi pleaded with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee not to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail. He warned that it would be a disaster for the Indian economy. Joshi drew the attention of Mukherjee to the parliamentary consultative committee which is also not in favour of FDI in retail.

Retail provides the most employment after agriculture in the country, and the entry of foreign players would endanger this sector, he said. This is the first time that the BJP has taken an unequivocal stand against FDI in retail. Joshi's stand had echoes of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a rightwing group allied to the 'sangh parivar, which had fiercely opposed economic liberalisation in the early 1990s. Joshi was careful enough to say that there is need to reform retail sector and make it more friendly to the farmer and to the consumer.

Joshi picked holes in the Budget speech and tried to show that the UPA government was favouring the rich while speaking for the poor. He pointed out that including LPG or cooking gas as part of the cash transfer scheme (CTS) was ironical as the poor would not have the means to either buy a gas stove or a place to keep it in. He has also pointed out that there was no system in place to implement the CTS as there were no banks in the rural areas and the post offices are not geared up for it.

In a lighter vein, Joshi referred to Mukherjee's reference in the Budget speech praying to goddess Lakshmi and told him not to pray to the goddess of wealth but to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, because in the 21st century it is a knowledge society. Taking a dig at Congress' objection to BJP's attempt to impose prayer to Saraswati in schools in states where BJP is in power, 'Your colleagues might call it saffronisation of the economy,' he told Mukherjee.

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