Congress readying to pay BJP back in the same coin

U.S. one-hundred dollar bills are seen in this photo illustration at a bank in Seoul
The decision to raise Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) caps across the board including in the defence, pharma, civil aviation and e-commerce in food sectors could be the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's next big parliamentary headache.

The Congress issue is debating how to handle this. "Party high command permitting" the Congress will raise the issue ''energetically' and 'forcefully' and demand that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) notification announcing the increase in FDI caps be brought before the upcoming session of Parliament. The monsoon session of Parliament will likely begin 18 July.

Rules of business say that any notification issued by the government can be challenged in either House of Parliament within 30 days of the cabinet clearing it. Although RBI notified FDI changes and the corresponding changes in the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) in February 2016, (many elements of liberalization were part of the 2016-17 budget) they were brought before Cabinet on 21 June. This enables any party that has objections to these provisions to raise the matter in either House of Parliament within 30 days of the cabinet decision. The 30-day deadline ends on 20 July, 2016.

In raising objections to the decision the Congress will have supporters in both the Left parties and the Trinamool Congress. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is opposed to 100% FDI for trading, including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured or produced in India as it believes this is a move to allow FDI in the food retail business through the back door.

In December 2012, Parliament sat up till midnight when a motion backed by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties in both Houses was debated after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) permitted FDI in multi-brand retail. On that occasion, as part of the opposition, BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "The notification has to be placed on the floor of the House for 30 days to allow members to see it, consider, think and submit modifications and disapproval amendments. It cannot be rushed through along with the main debate on FDI."

At first, long wrangling led to the decision that FDI caps could not be raised by executive order and the opposition won the argument that the notification to raise FDI caps had to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha because the government did not have a majority and if there were objections to the government's decision Parliament needed to hear them.

In the monsoon session, therefore, the Congress is likely to do to the BJP, what the BJP did to it in 2012.


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