A day after being criticised for departing from the BJP poll promise of not allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will not clear any proposal for infusing foreign funds in the sector. The government came under scrutiny after a document on Tuesday stayed with the UPA decision of allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail.
Insisting that the BJP has not changed its stand — opposition to FDI in multi-brand retail sector — Sitharaman said Thursday: “FDI in multi-brand retail cannot go in direct route. Every decision has to come to the cabinet. We will not allow it.”
Sitharaman said the government has no plans to review the document nor cancel the decision. “There has not been any change in the policy on FDI in multi-brand retail… BJP won the election based on what it had said in its (election) manifesto,” she added.
The issue was also clarified by finance minister Arun Jaitley who said the political stance on FDI in multi-brand retail is clear. “Our political stand is clear on FDI in multi-brand retail. We were not in favour of that. The department of industrial policy and promotion has only maintained its existing policy,” he said.
The BJP, which has a strong support base of small traders, had vehemently opposed the UPA government’s move to allow 51 per cent FDI in the multi-brand retail sector.
Pointing out that the compendium that talks about FDI in every segment is about the current position on the matter, Sitharaman said: “The position was taken by the UPA government through an executive order. Remember, it was a time when Parliament was in session,” she said, adding “I have not cleared a single proposal yet.”
On Wednesday, BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao had said that the government would not change the policy because it would affect the investment atmosphere as investors wanted to see continuity in policy.
However, the policy document seems to have disturbed the BJP’s ideological parent too. Ashwani Mahajan, national co-convenor of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the Sangh, said the government should immediately get rid of the “anti-people and anti-small trader” policy. “I do not contest the government’s intention on this. But, the BJP had promised that it would revert the decision. The FDI in multi brand retail is so far a non-starter. But if someone approaches the government with a proposal, there will be confusion as long as policy is there on record. So the government should get rid of it,” Mahajan said.
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