BSP chief Mayawati launched an acerbic attack on the BJP Thursday as she announced that she would bail the government out once again on the motion opposing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, this time unambiguously by voting with the government in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow.
The support of the BSP’s 15 MPs swings the numbers decisively in favour of the government on the motion moved by the AIADMK seeking withdrawal of the decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail.
“If this motion is not defeated then the opposition will get a chance to play politics... and the government would be wary of bringing in several other important legislations in the Rajya Sabha, most notably the one on reservations for SC/STs in promotions or the one on food security. Therefore, the BSP has decided to vote with the government to defeat this motion,” Mayawati said.
A similar motion was defeated Wednesday in the Lok Sabha, where the BSP, which is supporting the government from outside, walked out. But such a strategy could not have worked in the Rajya Sabha where the government does not enjoy a majority. Either the BSP, or the Samajwadi Party, which also bailed the UPA out in the Lok Sabha, needed to vote with the UPA to defeat the opposition.
Until Wednesday, there was suspense about what the SP and the BSP, both of which oppose FDI in multi-brand retail, would do in the Rajya Sabha.
Instead of the FDI decision, Mayawati directed her anger at the BJP, especially its leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj. Swaraj, while exhorting the SP and BSP to vote against the government, had remarked that it was a case of choosing “FDI vs CBI” for these parties, implying that they may have been influenced by CBI cases against their leaders.
Mayawati, who used more than half her speech to hit out at the “communal forces”, said the language used by Swaraj was “undignified” and “petty” and the allegations were “without any basis”.
“Allegations of CBI pressure on us has become fashionable... But I want to make it clear that we are not afraid of CBI...have never been afraid of the CBI or the central government even in the worst of times,” she said, adding that it was a case of “sour grapes” for the BJP as its motion was getting defeated.
Some of her references to Swaraj were deemed unparliamentary and expunged from the records after the BJP objected. Amid heated exchanges between BJP and BSP members, the house had to be adjourned for 10 minutes.
Mayawati repeated her party’s objections to the FDI decision and asked the government to ensure that it does not hurt domestic industry and farmers. “Many people fear that this decision will adversely affect farmers, small traders, shopkeepers and artisans. I suggest that the UPA government undertake detailed studies which will establish whether FDI is good for the country or not...It is not good to act in haste while deciding such important matters,” she said.
“While there are many deficiencies in the government’s decision, the good thing about it is that it has been left to the states to decide whether they want these supermarkets or not. It is not being forced down the throats of states,” she said.
Accusing the government of betraying Parliament, BJP’s Venkaiah Naidu said the decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail was taken even without consulting allies and supporting parties. His remarks that the government did not consult even its “allies” such as the BSP and SP created a brief furore with BSP members taking objection to his description of BSP as an ally of the UPA.
The house witnessed angry exchanges between BSP and BJP members. Responding to Mayawati’s remarks that she did not want to be seen siding with communal forces, Naidu pointed out that the BJP had led a 23-party coalition government at the Centre and a host of parties were part of it. “People shared power with us three times...Different parties had alliances with the BJP...They enjoyed power...Today, they can’t take a stand that because BJP is opposing, we will support it. It will be ridiculous...people will be laughing at them,” he said.
Naidu also linked the BJP’s defeat in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections to its poll promise to open up the retail sector to FDI as he spiritedly opposed the government move. “NDA favoured 26 per cent FDI in 2004. We were defeated. You want that same fate to happen to you?” he asked.
He claimed the government hurriedly and without consultation with the opposition, allies and other parties announced the FDI move to divert attention from its policy paralysis. “Had proper consultations been done, this situation wouldn’t have arisen. You have not consulted CMs, political parties and others. How a minority government could take such a major decision and thrust it on the people?” he asked.