Chandigarh, Sep 15 (IANS) Punjab may have been the first Indian state to host the Bharti-Walmart joint venture, but the state government is now opposing opening up of foreign investment in multi-brand retail announced Friday by the union government after initially welcoming it last year.
“It will create a monopoly of big companies. The small retailers will be finished,” Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said in Bathinda, 250 km from here.
Blaming the Congress for ‘wrong policies’, Badal said: “I don’t understand the double speak of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) allies. They are opposing the FDI in retail and want to continue in the same government. The allies should just leave the UPA government.”
But for the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, opposing the foreign direct investment in retail seems to be more of a “compulsion” as it cannot be seen at variance with the line taken by its long-time alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is opposing the move.
Last year, after the UPA announced that FDI in retail sector could be allowed, Akali Dal president and deputy chief minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal wrote a letter to union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma lauding the move and complimenting the central government.
“We strongly believe that opening FDI in multi-brand retail will bring in the expertise, experience and resources of foreign retailers.
“A major beneficiary of back-end investments would be farmers, who will gain substantially through agricultural best-practices of international retail companies, thus improving the quality and quantity of their yield, and will also get better remuneration,” Sukhbir Singh Badal wrote in the letter.
But within days, Sukhbir Singh Badal made a complete u-turn on the issue after Badal senior, who is the patron of the Akali Dal, spoke to top BJP leaders in New Delhi.
The Akali Dal December last year demanded that the “central government discuss the issue threadbare in parliament”.
At the party’s core committee meeting here December last year, Sukhbir Singh Badal said, “The issue needed to be looked at afresh keeping in view the interests of small farmers, vendors and small and medium traders.”
“Party has deliberately decided to oppose this matter after detail consideration on it,” said Parkash Singh Badal, adding that there was “no difference of opinion in the party on the matter” and that the party was “fully united to oppose the issue”.
After the flip-flop by the Badals, Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh said that “inconsistency” was the “hallmark” of Parkash Singh Badal’s character and is repeatedly being reflected in his behaviour.
“It is not for the first time that Badal has taken a U-turn on an important issue as he did the same thing at the time of Indo-US nuclear deal (which Badal had initially supported and later opposed),” Amarinder Singh added.
Amarinder said that Badal had spoken to BJP leader Arun Jaitely on phone before opposing FDI and saying that the party made a mistake by supporting it.
“Whom should we believe, you (Parkash Singh Badal), or your son (Sukhbir Singh Badal), who recently wrote a long letter to the union commerce minister therein supporting the FDI,” Amarinder said, adding that the Akali Dal and the Badal family were “confused” on the issue.
The third Bharti-Walmart wholesale store Best Price was inaugurated in Aug 2010 by Sukhbir Singh Badal in Jalandhar, about 150 km from here.
Bharti-Walmart opened their first two stores in Amritsar in May 2009 and in Zirakpur in April 2010.
All three stores came up in Punjab during the Akali Dal-BJP government led by Badal senior.
“We have invested close to the US $25 million in Punjab,” a senior Bharti-Walmart official said.