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FDI: Parliament reigns supreme

The two-day long debate on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail could not have come at a more opportune moment for the Indian democracy. The threadbare discussion on the pros and cons of introducing the next generation economic reforms with 22 leaders from 18 political parties participating in the debate in the Lok Sabha over two days reiterated the ability of Indian parliament to discuss matters of grave concern with earthy wisdom and intellectual eloquence. With the proceedings being televised live from the floor of the house, there could not have been a better way to put across the different viewpoints to the people of the country, who are sovereign and the right which they would again exercise in 2014 to elect a new government.

The Lok Sabha debate, which is to be followed with a similar discussion in the Rajya Sabha, made the political parties commit in the public domain their position on the matter - the reasons for their support and opposition to the FDI. It also provided the opportunity to the rival groups to enlighten on their adversaries’ changing stance on the matter and also allowing them to give justification for the act. Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, who initiated the debate, put the discussion on a very high pedestal with her opening remarks. She was matched for her oration from the government side by the articulation of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

The discussion also gave opportunity to smaller parties like Trinamool Congress to put forth their viewpoints in as effective a manner as they could marshal. Genuine concerns were raised about possibility of multi-nationals establishing monopoly, displacing the traditional traders. This was countered by assurance from the government about the checks and balances it would put in place to safeguard the interest of the four crore families currently sustaining themselves from retail trade.

In the end the ruling UPA may have managed with a better floor management than the Opposition but while signalling FDI in, the government would have to bear in mind the sense of the house which was of apprehension about the proposed reforms. The assurances given by the government would be closely scrutinised once the FDI giants step-in. And it’s in the interest of the Congress party that they keep the checks and balances as the states ruled by them would be the first to flag in FDI.
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