Foreign Direct Investment for Walmart and Friends Coming to Critical Vote in India

ACORN International Ideas and Issues WalMart
protest against foreign retail gaints in India earlier this year

Quito   Though I could find no information in the US-based press, the stalemate in the Parliament in India was finally broken yesterday after a week long stalemate centered on the parliamentarians’ opposition to the Government’s action to unilaterally modify foreign direct investment restrictions in multi-brand retail, allowing Walmart and other big box operations to enter India on their own steam potentially.  The India FDI Watch Campaign, supported by ACORN International since its inception, has been deeply embedded in this effort.   ACORN’s FDI campaign director in Delhi, Dharmendra Kumar, filed this report with me last night on the evolving situation and the potential vote breakdown.  Needless to say, it’s very, very close with street protests also planned within days!

Govt. strength over FDI in retail issue will be on trial in Parliament next week, with the Lok Sabha (Lower House) deciding to have a discussion on December 4 and 5 on the issue under rule 184 that entails voting. “I have received 30 notices for discussion on FDI in multi—brand retail under Rule 184. “I have admitted the motion to allow the discussion,” the Speaker Meira Kumar said. Rajya Sabha (Upper House) will also have a similar discussion, the date and timings for it will be decided later. The nearly week-long deadlock gripping the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) over the issue of allowing foreign superstores is thus broken with the government conceding the Opposition’s stringent demand for a debate on the issue in both Houses of Parliament under rules that entail voting.

While the Govt. is confident of required votes in the Lok Sabha, the Opposition is hopeful of defeating the Govt. in the Upper House. Govt. is sounding confident after its second largest constituent, DMK reluctantly decided to vote for the Govt. “with bitterness” on this issue. The Govt. is also hoping its key allies SP and BSP who stand opposed to foreign superstores will bail it out through abstention from voting. Though SP and BSP continue to give mix signals and are keeping everyone guessing. To muster a simple majority mark in the Rajya Sabha, the Govt. requires votes from the 15-member BSP and abstention by 9 SP parliamentarians.

The likely parliamentary position is as follows:-

Lok Sabha Position

For FDI Retail-257

Undecided-43 (In principle all opposed to FDI Retail)

Against FDI Retail-244

Simple majority mark-272

Total Seats-545

Effective Strength-544

Rajya Sabha Position

For FDI Retail-95

Undecided-24 (In principle all opposed to FDI Retail)

Against FDI Retail-113

Nominated Members-12

Simple majority mark-123

Total Seats-245

Effective Strength-244

This will be the first such trial of strength in the 15th Parliament.  There has never been a parliamentary discussion of this sort on executive decision.

Another opportunity-The Opposition could get another opportunity to show its strength when the government later brings RBI’s amendments to Fema in the form of Fema (Third Amendment) Regulations, 2012 notification for the approval of both Houses to facilitate FDI-retail’s implementation.

Street Action-Independent retailers and street vendors would organize protest against FDI Retail at parliament on 3rd December.