Following the withdrawal of support from the Left parties, the United Progressive Alliance- (UPA)-led central government will probably not risk its position further by supporting the entry of multinationals in the country’s retail trade.
Within a few weeks of a government-sponsored study favouring big retail chains, Congress general secretary Margaret Alva said that the mall culture is damaging the small kirana shops. “The small kirana shops and establishments run by women are being swept away by the mall culture,” Alva was quoted as stating while addressing the silver jubilee celebrations of the FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO).
Alva said that kirana shops that are run by women are not able to match the scales of production, finance, sales and advertising of the big retail stores. “Today, we are facing one of the most difficult periods in trade, industry and commerce. The doors of the country have been opened, and we have to face challenges from anything and everything that is being dumped in the country,” she added. According to Alva, small-scale industries and units run by women have to face the challenge of ‘how to market what they produce’ and survive in a global India.
Meanwhile, besides the Left, other political parties who have a stake in the union government have also opposed the entry of the multinationals in the country’s retail trade. The Samajwadi Party, which now supports the Congress in forming a majority in Parliament, has made it clear that it will oppose the entry of multinationals. Moreover, the party has demanded an act to set up a regulatory body that will protect the interests of small retailers.
“We have already made it clear that the Samajwadi Party will oppose foreign investment in multi-brand retailing. We are also asking the government to quickly come out with an act of parliament to regulate corporate retailers who pose a threat to small shops,” said Banwari Lal Kanchal, a Samajwadi Party MP.
However, minutes after the Left announced its decision to withdraw support to the UPA government, Samajwadi Party held a press conference where party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said that his party would give unconditional support to the government.
In any case, some of the other UPA constituents including the RJD and the NCP are not prepared to allow FDI in retail now. The opposition mainly stems from fears of huge job losses as big retailers expand.
With four key partners (CPM, CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP) already out of the alliance, it can be assumed that the UPA will definitely not endanger its position further by entertaining multinational retailers on Indian terrain.
– Satrajit Sen