New Delhi: The issue of international supermarket chain Wal-Mart lobbying in the US to open the way for FDI in retail in India rocked both houses of parliament Tuesday as the opposition across the political divide sought a probe into the matter.
Lashing out against the Congress-led UPA government, the BJP wanted question hour to be suspended to discuss Wal-Mart reportedly spending Rs.125 crore on lobbying activities in the US, including on issues related to enhanced market access for investment in India.
BJP MP Yashwant Sinha raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, saying “it was a matter of shame”.
“There should be a time-bound judicial probe,” Sinha said. He added that the probe’s disclosures should be made public and that the BJP would continue raising the issue in parliament.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha, the CPI-M, CPI, Trinmool Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) also demanded a time-bound probe to clear the air over the issue.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the government was open to a probe.
“We have no hesitation in having an inquiry in this and money spent in India. We are open for a discussion and this is a matter of concern for the government,” he told both houses of parliament.
The Congress criticised the BJP and asked it to come up with proof.
“If the BJP or anybody else has any evidence, it should have been made public. Those allegations should have been verified,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told reporters outside parliament.
“Merely because a report gets published somewhere and it serves your political purpose, it dovetails into your larger agenda because you’ve lost the FDI vote in both the houses. That does not mean that you translate conjuncture into innuendo and extrapolate innuendo into allegations,” he said.
As soon as both houses met, BJP members started shouting slogans, demanding suspension of the question hour and asking the government to clarify how much money Wal-Mart spent on lobbying in India.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar asked members to allow the house to function and said she would give them a chance to raise the issue during the day. But this did not pacify the BJP and its members continued the uproar, forcing the speaker to suspend the house till 12 noon and later till 2 p.m.
Similar scenes were witnessed in the Rajya Sabha, leading to suspension of the proceedings in the upper house for 30 minutes.
Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari proposed to reschedule question hour or “dispense with it entirely” because of frequent disruptions.
The BJP parliamentary board met Tuesday morning and decided to take up the matter aggressively.