Call it mixed signals or a bid to assuage Sangh Parivar affiliates such as the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), as well as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters among small and medium retailers.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday the party continued to be opposed to foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retailing. However, he gave no indication that the government was about to reverse its predecessor’s decision that allowed up to 51 per cent FDI in the segment.
Jaitley’s statement came two days after the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) issued a consolidated FDI policy document, retaining the earlier government's policy on FDI in multi-brand retailing that allowed up to 51 per cent. Jaitley was non-committal on what the policy was going to be.
“As far as (multi-brand) retail is concerned, the old policy is there. Our political stand was very clear. We were not in favour of that. However, the DIPP has maintained the old policy, which is clear in the circular,” he said.
The BJP has consistently opposed opening multi-brand retailing to foreign investment but has not reversed the earlier policy since coming to power.
Earlier this month, the SJM sent a memorandum to the prime minister and held a protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on May 5. Small traders comprise a strong support base of the BJP.