It’s not about whether there is a precedent for this or not. It’s also not about whether the Government has the numbers or not. It’s about Governance and the way we take decisions in this country. If the Executive’s decision making is questioned by Parliament, how do we expect decisions to be taken? If the Executive is expected to go back to Parliament for a ratification of its decisions, how do we expect the Government to ever function? On the one hand we demand quick decision making, but on the other, we hobble the Government up in such time-wasting political shenanigans.
There are clear cut reasons why the Government must not allow a discussion on FDI in multi-brand retail followed by voting.
The first one is that in a complex country like ours, each authority has to respect the roles and responsibilities of the others. What is in the Parliament’s domain cannot be exercised by the Judiciary for instance. And what is in the Executive’s domain cannot be exercised by the Parliament. It’s that simple. Specific to the issue on hand, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the decision to allow foreign retailers into the country lies with the Executive. If that is unquestioned, there is no reason for a vote in Parliament on the issue. If as a matter of informing the Parliament, a short debate is required, by all means have it. But a vote is unnecessary and unwarranted.
Second, every one knows that the real objective of seeking a vote on this subject is to embarrass the Government. The opposition knows that it cannot overturn an Executive decision. Even if the Government loses the vote in Parliament, the Government won’t fall. The opposition wants to score brownie points; nothing else. If the entire issue is a political one, then the Government should also be allowed to play its own politics. By disallowing voting, the Government will merely be playing a legally permitted brand of politics. There cannot be any moral questions here – about why the Government is not allowing voting, whether its afraid of losing, about it being in a minority etc. It’s a political move and it should be countered by the Government politically.
Allowing FDI in retail is a political decision. The Left (and that should now include Mamata and the joker in the political pack, Kejriwal) is dead opposed to anything foreign (except of course the choice of colleges for their kids’ education and the companies in which they work!). Their views are well known to the electorate since they have been consistently talking about them for so long. The fact that their numbers in Parliament are only a fraction what they once used to be indicates that their ideology is fading. People really don’t care for such obstructionism any more. Then there is the BJP – the otherwise pro-reform party – which on a different day would have supported FDI in any form. In fact, if it wasn’t for so much politics, I would have bet that it would Narendra Modi’s Gujarat which would have been the first state to roll out the red carpet to Walmart. But the BJP smells a chance to embarrass the Government here. It hopes to gain from opposing FDI in retail politically. It appears to be having no qualms in showing its back to its usual pro-FDI policy preference. It’s opposition is purely political and purely opportunistic and the fact that they are happy to join hands with the Left (though the two cannot otherwise see eye to eye on anything) shows just how opportunistic they can be. The only thing that can unite the BJP and the Left is their keen desire to oppose the Government.
If the only unity they share is in opposing the Government, then they should be moving a no confidence motion against it. But they don’t want to do that. Because they know that they have no chance of winning it. And if they lose, they will not be able to bring another one for at least six months. Look at the irony of the situation. The one party that wants to bring the vote of no confidence is unable to even cobble together the 50 odd MPs required to introduce the motion! And this party claims to be representing the “mood of the country”. Forget the country, they no longer even represent the mood of their state. If the mood is what they are bothered with, let them hold rallies. As things stand, it is the Congress that held the biggest rally on the issue. Even the BJP has not held a rally against FDI. The farmers bodies are all behind the Government as is the urban middle class which looks forward to the jobs that foreign retailers will bring. FDI in multi-brand retail has become the touchstone for economic progressiveness; and the Government’s policy has united the 700 odd million farmers and the 300 odd million urban middle-class. Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind what the mood of the country is on this issue any longer?
The fragmented opposition may sometimes appear to represent the majority viewpoint (given the time they get on our news channels), but in a Parliamentary democracy, the views of the people are expressed only once in five years. The current Lok Sabha represents the mood expressed in 2009. If the opposition has gained popularity, that will show up in the next Lok Sabha in 2014. And when that happens, the Government of that day will have its chance to rule as per its beliefs; to take decisions as it deems fit. The whole point of Parliamentary democracy is that the one that is voted into power be allowed to rule as it deems fit, in accordance with its beliefs. If people don’t like their policies or their beliefs, they will vote them out in the next elections. The opposition cannot be impatient….
The real truth is that every time a Parliamentary session is about to start, the opposition parties find a reason to stall its working. The last session was almost completely disrupted for one reason. This time, it will be for a different reason. Last time, it was the BJP which did it; this time it will be another set of parties. The only thing I have to say to them all is that the people are watching they conduct themselves….and they will express their views in 2014. The obstructionists better beware!