New Delhi: The Walmart lobbying issue triggered a political storm with the Bharatiya Janata Party yesterday demanding a statement from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliament and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Samajwadi Party joining it in seeking an independent probe into the "serious allegations" of bribery.
BJP said the prime minister should make a statement on the issue in parliament as the reports coming out yesterday were "serious" and raised questions on the country's image.
As per the lobbying disclosure reports filed by Walmart with the US Senate, the company has spent close to $25 million (about Rs125 crore) since 2008 on its various lobbying activities, including on the issues related to "enhanced market access for investment
"BJP would like the PM to explain why he did not initiate inquiry and what he proposed to do now when it has become evident that multi-brand retail FDI has come on the shoulders of lobbying and bribery," BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
His party colleague Venkaiah Naidu said, "We demand that prime minister should come to the House and make a statement on the issue.
"It should also be followed up with an independent inquiry."
"The disclosure in US senate about Walmart that they had spent Rs125 crore in lobbying including India for creating new market is official confirmation that Wal-Mart has done lobbying in India. Lobbying is banned in India," Prasad said.
Naidu said, "Government cannot keep quiet and parliament cannnot remain silent into these serious allegations...It has raised many questions. It is a question of India's image and the image of its parliament."
Also demanding an inquiry into the issue, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said, ""We are not saying who has taken money or not. What we are saying is that Walmart itself is saying that it has spent the money. There are cases of corruption in the court. So government should inquire into it."
SP leader Mohan Singh also said, "government should inquire into it as who are responsible for it or involved in it." BJP said the prime minister should explain how lobbying for Walmart was allowed in India despite a ban on it. The BJP also said that it will continue to raise the issue in Parliament and demand the government's response.
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day after repeated disruptions over reports of Walmart spending huge money to lobby for entry into the Indian market.
Naidu said, "It is a shocking news on India and it is a sad commentary on the state of affairs. This has raised many questions. The country wants to know who have taken the money and what is the government's response."
He alleged that the party has been raising the issue of western influence there on India's policy and the reports have proved this point further. "We have raised an issue that concern the image of Parliament," he said.
Prasad said, "the lobbying fact cannot be denied as US Senate has accepted it. Lobbying in India is prohibited. Bribery is a crime. People of the country would like to know if lobbying was going on for the last four years then what action had been taken by the government and who were the middlemen in the transaction."
SP leader Mohan Singh also said that it is known that when a foreign company enters the country they spent huge money for it.
When reminded that SP has bailed out the UPA government in Parliament on FDI issue, he said, "No SP leader knows English. So SP cannot play any role for advocating entry of foreign companies. SP does not have any role in the Walmart deal."
Meanwhile, the Congress said economic reforms were back on track and appealed to various parties to support it in getting key legislations passed in parliament.
"The economic reforms are back on track... parliament is discussing them. Parties should support the government in getting the legislations passed," Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko told reporters here. He said both houses of parliament gave approval to the government's decision to allow 51 percent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail which will benefit the farmers.
He congratulated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the move. "In some quarters there was opposition to the move to bring political instability and stall reforms," said Chacko adding: "More reforms are on the anvil."