Even if no big foreign retail chain seems to be in a hurry to come to India, the UPA Government has extended them an open invitation. But the very fact that the ruling combine managed to defeat the Opposition motion against retail FDI in both Houses of Parliament would be a matter of some satisfaction for it.
Yet, ensuring majority in the two Houses whenever it is challenged to prove it might become a regular hazard. For instance, the immediate test might come when the Government seeks to amend the Foreign Exchange Management Act. The CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury has already spoken of opposing the proposed amendment. Given this stiff opposition against the entry of foreign retail behemoths, it is only natural for them to be chary of such a fraught environment. On its part, the Government would want to push its economic agenda through Parliament. A number of Bills are pending approval. Among them the key ones pertain to the banking, insurance and pension sectors. Reportedly, it has got the main Opposition BJP on board on the insurance and pension Bills. In the case of insurance, the earlier proposal to raise the FDI cap from 26 to 49 percent seems to have been shelved in view of a lack of agreement in the standing committee on finance. The Banking Regulation Amendment Bill is another measure awaiting parliamentary approval. With its passage, the Government wants to press ahead with its proposal to license a slew of new banks in the private sector, a move the RBI is not exactly looking forward to. The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill should sail through the two Houses, given the agreement the Government has reached with the main Opposition party.
However, there is no news about the much talked about Lokpal Bill. Since only six working days remain in the winter session, it is highly unlikely that it would be presented in this session. Now that the public agitation for its passage has virtually died down, the Government feels under no pressure to put in place an anti-corruption watchdog. Meanwhile, the plight of some of the regional parties which saw their members in the Rajya Sabha weaned away by the ruling combine on the FDI vote reveals how extraneous influences were used to defeat the Opposition-sponsored motion. In particular, the fact that three Telugu Desam Party members absented from the House at the time of the vote only underlines the declining influence of Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh. The anti-Congress space seems to have been taken over by Jaganmohan Reddy’s fledgling outfit. The FDI vote revealed a notable fluidity in the polity. The churn could gather momentum as the general elections come near.
Nitin Gadkari’s bluff
BJP president Nitin Gadkari is said to have told a television news channel that he was not a businessman. Nor was he involved in any scam. He said that he was a `social entrepreneur,’ whatever that may mean in real terms. Even if he were to be taken at face value, Gadkari ought to know that his continuance as BJP chief has become untenable following a series of reports about the shenanigans of companies associated with him. Now, he may have done nothing extraordinary as a businessmen since ordinarily most businessmen do similar things. But then they are not in politics, or at least do not head national political parties. Therefore, Gadkari should himself realize that his continuance as BJP chief can only prove an electoral liability for the BJP. He owes it to the BJP to quit as the party chief at the end of his three-year term later this month. Public perceptions matter the most in politics. Gadkari is now damaged goods as far as ordinary people are concerned. He should opt out of a second term and thus save the BJP from humiliation.