This year has been the most troublesome year for the UPA Government owing to massive charges of corruption, bad governance, a reluctance to bring in a strong anti-corruption Act, unwillingness to act against money launderers having fat Swiss bank accounts and other equally serious issues. This month we have also seen Dr. Manmohan Singh’s image as the man in charge suffer a severe beating, with allies preventing his master plan (FDI in retail) from being implemented. In contrast, the BJP did seem to be doing comparatively better in terms of public opinion and perception because of its clear support for Team Anna in the whole Lokpal debate. The BJP had started looking like a party who had begun to think for the nation first. For the first time in years, the BJP was looking almost as strong and positive as it was in the Vajpayee era. However, the last 10-12 days have completely reversed my slowly growing belief in the BJP’s agenda. The party has behaved in the most immature, opportunistic and selfish manner especially in the last two weeks. These are harsh words, but I do believe that they are extremely congruous in the case I am making here. A couple of days before the ongoing winter session of Parliament began, the ‘NDA’ met at New Delhi and decided to ‘boycott’ the Home Minister, P Chidambaram in Parliament as they thought that there was a serious doubt about his integrity due to his allege involvement in the 2G scam. One would say, “Hmm, they do have a point. How can a person whose integrity is being questioned continue as the country’s Home Minister?” – Point taken.
The House did not function on Day 1. In a matter of 2 days, however, a confused BJP’s stand on why they were not allowing the Parliament to transact business changed to “because we want a discussion on corruption and price rise.” One would say, “Yes, they are urgent matters, too.” Then, the Government announced the policy allowing FDI in retail up to 51%. Suddenly, the BJP seemed to have forgotten corruption, price rise and P Chidambaram, and joined the Communists demanding a rollback of the policy first and then a Parliament discussion and vote on the same. Now if the Opposition is asked why they are stalling business in the House, the prompt reply is, “in protest of the FDI in retail policy.”
For the moment, let us forget about the validity (or invalidity) of the opposition to FDI. Is this not a clear case of opportunism and evidence of an urge to stop Parliament at any cost, and for any excuse they might find for it? Much as the Parliament can be a platform to convey opposition to certain decisions of the Government, it cannot be a forum for protest which disallows any business to take place for almost a fortnight, especially when extremely important Bills are to be tabled and passed in this short winter session. The most ironic fact in this issue is that the NDA Government had in 2003 favoured FDI in retail, but is now opposing it for various odd reasons. Also, I think that such a policy decision of the Government cannot be questioned by the Opposition in Parliament as it would mean the encroachment of the Executive’s jurisdiction by the Legislature.
Whether FDI in the retail sector is beneficial or not, is a question that has been answered by numerous more qualified economists. The entire world, except a few nations (mostly Communist), have allowed FDI in retail. Not just because they knew they didn’t have the money themselves, but also because in the increasingly globalized world, a certain standard of living is desired by people of all developing nations, and the FDI promised that to consumers, farmers and also small-time-job seekers. So, I do believe very strongly that this policy of the Government (if allowed to be implemented) would be a game changer for Indian shopping and agriculture.