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Dec 11, 2012 at 06:35pm IST

Govt says it's ready for a probe as Oppn corners UPA over Walmart lobbying

New Delhi: The Opposition on Tuesday continued to derail both the Houses of Parliament over retail giant Walmart lobbying report. The Opposition is demanding an investigation by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in to the issue. Following the pressure from the opposition parties over the issue, the government also conceded that they would order an investigation into the issue after Parliament was disrupted for two continuous days.

According to Walmart, it has spent $25 million on lobbying. Reacting to the statement from the retail giant, the Opposition contended that the lobbying included bribery and that the company illegally influenced decision makers to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.

While assuring the House of a probe into the case, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said, "The government is as much concerned as the House and has no hesitation in having probe into this. We want to get to the facts of this matter." He further said, "This is not a matter of concern for just the Opposition, it is a concern for all of us."

The Opposition, however, was not convinced with the assurance of the Parliamentary Affairs Minister. Speaking on the issue, veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha said, "The government should in the House announce whether they will order a JPC or judicial probe into the matter."

There were voices in Parliament demanding a JPC probe into the case from some other parties as well. Demanding a probe, the Trinamool Congress went on to say that the retail giant must not be allowed in India if found guilty.

Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee said, "The JPC should hold an enquiry and until the report is submitted, Walmart should not be allowed to operate in India...if found guilty, Walmart should not be allowed in India."

This came a day after Bharti Walmart on Monday denied allegations that it had spent money in India to gain market access here. "These allegations are entirely false. In accordance with US law, US companies are required to disclose the issues and expenditures associated with lobbying on a quarterly basis," a Bharti Walmart spokesperson had said in a statement.

The expenditures are a compilation of expenses associated with staff, association dues, consultants and contributions spent in the US, it added. "Our Washington office naturally had discussions with US government officials about a range of trade and investment issues that impact our businesses in the US and worldwide and disclosed this in accordance with the law," the official said.

Following reports that Walmart spent $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", BJP and Left parties have alleged that money has been spent in India. Bharti Walmart Private Limited is a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Walmart, the world's leading retailer.

(With Additional Inputs from PTI)

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