Wal-Mart lobbying creates storm; company denies illegality

New Delhi: The issue of Wal-Mart lobbying on Monday led to a political storm with Opposition creating pandemonium in the Rajya Sabha and promising to create further trouble tomorrow by pressing its demand for a probe and a statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

BJP, CPI-M, CPI, SP, JD-U, Trinamool Congress, AGP and AIADMK used the issue to target the government over its decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in retail.

These parties created ruckus in the Rajya Sabha soon after the Question Hour, alleging that the US giant had indulged in corruption to enter Indian market. The uproar led to three adjournments till 2 PM when the House was adjourned finally for the day.

Though the issue did not figure in the Lok Sabha today, the Opposition has decided to rake it up there tomorrow.

"It is a very very serious issue. It has been raised in Rajya Sabha today. We propose to raise it in Lok Sabha tomorrow," senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha told reporters.

When pointed out that lobbying is not illegal in the US, the former External Affairs Minister said, "I know it is allowed in the US. But the laws of the two countries are different. Lobbying in the US does not mean corruption but in India, it does. That is the difference. There is illegality."

Earlier, Ravishankar Prasad (BJP) raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha during the Zero Hour. He said apprehensions were raised earlier also about Wal-Mart spending huge money to lobby for entering the Indian market and that it has now been proved true.

He was supported by members of other opposition parties.

Bharti Wal-Mart issued a statement, saying the opposition allegations of corruption are "entirely false". It said the amount mentioned in its disclosure is a "compilation of expenses associated with staff, association dues, consultants and contributions spent in the US."