Coming from a seasoned politician who still claims 'It is good to be a reformist', BJP leader Arun Jaitley's arguments against allowing foreign investment in organised retail are unconvincing and untenable. By Shivshankar Verma
Dear Mr. Jaitley,
I know I am not the first to say you are one of the most, if not the most, articulate politicians in this country. You have fair knowledge about most policy areas, and are equally at ease with the nuances of international trade relations as well as the arcane depths of constitutional federalism. Your media appearances to defend your party's seemingly indefensible positions are a sight to behold and must be made compulsory viewing for every aspiring politician.
From someone with such indomitable skills and experience, your recent defence of the BJP's opposition to allowing FDI in the organised retail was most disappointing. Instead of the spirited and coherent sound bites we have grown to expect from you, your arguments were lame, unconvincing, shallow and mostly false. Let me explain.
You open your argument by stating that the US and European Union have been demanding of us that we open our retail sector to FDI and we have been wisely resisting their guile. The truth is that successive governments since the nineties have considered this several times.
Every time, in the face of intense pressure from domestic organised retailers and the small traders, putting off the decision turned out to be the easier option. The Vajpayee government, of which you were a senior cabinet member, was open to this idea and almost decided to let foreign companies hold minority stakes in domestic retailers. You didn't find them so scary back then. Have these foreigners acquired some evil powers of late?
You accuse the government of giving away a valuable gift to the foreigners, without extracting anything in return. Will the BJP be open to retail FDI if the US and Europe are willing to grant us some trade concession? If so, why don't you enlighten us about the areas where our products and services face restrictions in those countries, so that our government can bargain better?