Storm in Rajya Sabha over Wal-Mart lobbying disclosure; BJP seeks probe

There was uproar in the Rajya Sabha over the reported disclosure that Wal-Mart spent Rs 125 crore on lobbying to enter the Indian market.

Raising the issue in the Upper House, the BJP members demanded a detailed probe into the disclosure.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad targeted the government and said the revelation had raised questions over the credibility of the decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail.

The opposition maintained that lobbying was illegal in the country and the government should probe who got the money.

The decision to allow multi-brand retail in FDI should be put on hold and the government should first identify the beneficiaries of Wal-MArt lobbying, the Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

With the BJP members demanding immediate reply from the government, the House was adjourned for ten minutes.

When the House reconvened, the opposition members continued with their protests forcing the Chair to adjourn the House till 2pm.

The BJP members were reacting to a report that global retail giant Wal-Mart — waiting for years to open its supermarkets in India — had been lobbying with the US lawmakers since 2008 to facilitate its entry into the highly lucrative Indian market.

According to lobbying disclosure reports filed by Wal-Mart with the US Senate, the company spent close to $25 million (about Rs 125 crore) since 2008 on its various lobbying activities, including on the issues related to "enhanced market access for investment in India".

In the last quarter ended September 30, 2012 itself, the company spent $1.65 million (about Rs 10 crore) on various lobbying issues, which included "discussions related to FDI in India".

During the quarter, Wal-Mart lobbied for its case with the US Senate, the US House of Representatives, the US Trade Representative (USTR) and the US Department of State, according to its latest quarterly disclosure report. The companies are allowed to lobby for their cases in various departments and agencies in the US, but they are required to file their lobbying disclosure reports every quarter with the US Senate.

So far in 2012, Wal-Mart has spent more than $3 million or about Rs 18 crore on its various lobbying activities, including those related to India. As per Wal-Mart's lobbying disclosure reports, the company has continuously lobbied for its India entry since 2008, except for a few quarters in 2009.