Lobbying din disrupts Parliament yet again

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Following the uproar in Parliament over Wal-Mart’s lobbying with government sources for gaining entry into the retail sector, the Centre said Tuesday 11 December that it was willing to commission an investigation to determine the allegations. Opposition parties including the Left and the BJP say any inquiry on the issue must be completed within a stipulated time, while other parties maintained that a parliamentary committee consisting of members from different parties should be part of the probe. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said that the government was open to carrying out an investigation. The controversy picked up force in Parliament on Tuesday after word about Wal-Mart spending Rs 125 crores in the last four years on lobbying for access to different markets including India started doing the rounds.

In the midst of ruckus in both Houses of Parliament with the Opposition demanding that the government should make public the amount which was spent by Wal-Mart on lobbying, and if bribery was involved or not, Nath assured members that the government was “concerned over the issue”.

The Opposition has already labeled ‘lobbying’ as an act of bribery. The government, on the other hand, has maintained that though it doesn’t know the details, lobbying is legal in the US. And if lobbying has taken place in the US there is no harm in it. Union External Affairs Minister Mr Salman Khurshid also said that an investigation cannot be done in thin air and that there has to be some concrete evidence or proof that bribery has been done in India where it is an offence.

In the Lok Sabha, soon after Speaker Meira Kumar took up the Question Hour, members of BSP, Left parties and Trinamool Congress trooped into the Well shouting slogans demanding inquiry into reports of lobbying by Wal-Mart and status of probe in the coal block allocation.

BJP members insisted that Question Hour be dropped and the government be made to answer on the issue of lobbying.

Despite her efforts, the Speaker failed to assuage the Opposition to keep order and the House was soon adjourned. The continuing disruption over the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail has repeatedly paralysed the Winter Session since its commencement on 22 November 2012.

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