Even as the government heaved a sigh of relief after defeating the anti-FDI motion in Parliament last week, the combined opposition, as well as allies DMK and SP, forced two adjournments in the Rajya Sabha on Monday over reports of US global retail chain Walmart spending money on lobbying efforts in India.
Last Friday, the government defeated the resolution against allowing entry of foreign investment in multi-brand retail by 123 to 102 votes in the Rajya Sabha.
On Monday morning, when zero hour started in the Rajya Sabha, BJP deputy leader of Opposition Ravi Shankar Prasad stood up to say that suspicions of massive lobbying by global retail chains have come true, pointing out that his senior, Arun Jaitley, had also raised the point during his speech last week. “Walmart has in its lobbying disclosure report to the US Senate said it has spent `125 crore on lobbying and $3 million have been spent in 2012 itself for entering the Indian market,” said Prasad. He said that while there had been talk of “floor management” during the resolution, now there was “lobbying and fund management in US to allow entry of Walmart”.
Prasad said: “Lobbying is illegal in India. Lobbying is a kind of bribe. If Walmart has said that hundreds of crores of rupees were spent in India, then it is a kind of bribe. The government should tell who was given this bribe. This raises a question mark on the implementation of FDI.”
From CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury to SP’s Naresh Agarwal, most Elders, excluding Congress and BSP members, were on their feet to ‘associate’ themselves with the matter. “This is a serious issue,” said Agarwal, echoed by S S Roy of Trinamool Congress, CPI’s D Raja and Biju Janata Dal’s Shashi Bhushan Behera. Both SP’s Mohan Singh and JD(U)’s Shivanand Tiwari were up on their feet, asking for the government to give a reply. Besides SP, DMK’s Tiruchy Siva—another UPA ally—asked to be “associated” with the issue.
With all members wanting to speak at the same time, there was pandemonium in the House. Deputy chairman P J Kurien tried to calm down tempers and said, “No discussion in the House. This is zero hour”.