Thursday, November 22, 2012

Boo BJP….back to disrupting Parliament

The BJP is back to what it has gotten addicted to in the past few years – Disrupting Parliament. But what better can we expect when the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and senior BJP Leader Arun Jaitley makes a virtue out of disrupting Parliament? Remember his statement that had it not been for this, the 2G scam would not have assumed the importance it did? Well we now know exactly how important the 2G scam was. It was a completely bogus scam to say the least. The former DG, Post and Telecommunication at the CAG, Mr. RP Singh has shown just how the BJP manipulated the CAG’s report. And the auctions have shown how silly the report was.

The compulsions of the BJP in not letting Parliament function are understandable. If it doesn’t stop it, how will it stop the Congress from delivering? The Congress seems to have acquired a renewed vigor in the last few months, much to the BJP’s chagrin, and appears to have realized that this was the last chance it had to improve its credentials before the next polls. It now wants to do a lot more, a lot faster. It’s a clear political fight for the BJP; the country be damned. The more the country is damned, the more the BJP will pin the blame on the Congress.

The latest excuse of course is the debate-and-vote or only-debate-but-not-vote issue with respect to FDI in multi-brand retail. I wrote on this a few days back. The whole purpose of the BJP doesn’t seem to be to debate the issue; but to embarrass the Congress. And if that is the case, then the Congress is justified in playing its own politics by denying the voting motion. There cannot be any moral positions here.

But look at the inanities that are being dished out by the BJP on the subject. If you listened to the BJP and the Left (strange bed fellows?), it would appear that “crores” would be out of jobs if the Walmarts came in. Really? How many crores have already lost their jobs since the large format Indian retail stores came out? How many kirana shops have closed down since these Indian chains opened? And has the BJP protested against the rapid expansion of these Indian giants? Or is the party’s argument one of “Swadeshi” v/s foreign? That it prefers that Indian chains kill the jobs market but not the foreign ones? Or maybe it feels compelled to protect its core vote banks made up predominantly of “baniyas”? Come come BJP, let us know what the truth is. We understand the Left. They don’t like anything measured in dollars or euros. But what about you? Do you also not like these currencies?

And then this preposterous speech of Jaitley’s yesterday. That the stores will be owned by the Americans and the Europeans; the goods will be from China and India will become a nation of “salesmen”. What kind of exaggerated rubbish is this? European and American chains are hardly likely to launch more than 50-100 stores between them all over the country. That too in the very long run. We tend to believe that these chains come with unquestioned investment plans and that they don’t bother about viability. The fact is that they have serious questions to answer before they enter a market and they always cut their coat according to the cloth they have. In contrast, Indian chains are aggressively growing and now operate more than 5000 stores between them. What about the goods from China argument? Is there an import restriction on Chinese goods even today? Aren’t there large importers today who already import thousands of Chinese goods as per demand? Aren’t the Indian stores capable of importing from China the way Walmart would? Rajan Mittal of Bharti Walmart recently said “97% of the items in our stores are of Indian origin”. Which world are you living in Mr Jaitley? And what about the salesmen logic. Did Arun Jaitley complain likewise when the BPO sector opened up in India? Did he not feel that Indians were doing low-order telephone-operator like jobs in these units? Was the BPO growth good for India or bad? And what about the millions who do the same salesman job in today’s broken down retail sector? Jaitley is good with words; but that’s about all he is good with.

I have always said that FDI in multi-brand retail is a political issue. It’s the Congress’s big game plan to win the next elections (along with the Unique Identity card based direct-cash-transfer plan and the Food Security Bill). It has made this amply clear – hosting a huge rally (some say more than 5 lac people attended) in Delhi. It has secured the support of the 700 million farmers represented by their bodies. It knows very well that the urban middle class has none of the BJP’s insecurities; and in fact, looks forward to the stores opening up so that more jobs can be created. That’s 300 million more. The same 300 million that cheered when the BPO sector boomed; the same 300 million who voted the Congress to power after the Indo-US nuclear deal polarized the voters. It is the same 300 million who the Congress believes will steer them to victory in 2014.

If the battle is political, then let the fight be political as well. I haven’t heard Narendra Modi speak much about this issue in his election rallies. Why? Want to know the reason? Because Modi will be the first one to welcome Walmart into his “suvarna Gujarat” (Golden Gujarat). The BJP is not holding any public rallies anywhere else too. Why? Because they know they don’t have any grounds to stand on.

But wait a second. There is another huge benefit in blocking Parliament. The huge step forward that the Congress wants to take – the enactment of the Lokpal – will also be blocked and hopefully the BJP will be able to use that issue in the polls. If the Lokpal becomes a reality, the BJP will have nowhere to hide.

The real truth is that for the BJP the FDI issue is just another excuse to block Parliament. If it hadn’t been that, it would have been something else. The party has decided they won’t let Parliament function for a majority of the time. And they will blame the Congress for it. Their strategy is clear: block the passage of bills. Then blame the government for “policy paralysis”. This conduct is pathetic to say the least; anti-national is a more appropriate way to describe it.

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