New Delhi: The first controversy of the not-yet-in-office Narendra Modi regime has broken out. RSS’s economic wing Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) has locked horns with Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union minister for food processing in the last BJP government, demanding an investigation into her “links” with the global retail giant that has been trying for long to enter the mammoth Indian market.

The SJM has not taken kindly to a tweet by the CEO of Walmart in India Krish Iyer in which he “heartily” congratulated Badal for getting re-elected from Bathinda.

The SJM alleged that the Badal as food processing minister had opened the floodgates for the entry of Walmart into retail in India and that this tweet was direct evidence of a “collusion” between the two.

“The role of Badal family in trying to get Walmart to sneak into the Indian market is nothing short of a ‘BadalGate’. Sukhbir Badal got Walmart into India, but that is old news. FDI was not allowed into retail and Walmart could not get into retail sector, but that is history. But, when Harsimrat was the food processing minister she submitted a proposal saying that there was lack of food processing in India so we must open this sector to FDI. The government talked to us and we rejected,” SJM national co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan told MyNation.  

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“However, FDI was allowed in food processing, but very cleverly a clause was inserted regarding the marketing of food products. Her ministry said anyway no one was coming to marketing, but this could be used to attract FDI in processing. Now, next to nothing came as FDI. Recently, Walmart applied for opening food stores,” Mahajan added.

According to a Times of India report from May 25, Flipkart, now owned by Walmart, was planning to open brick-and-mortar or physical stores in India to sell food items. Even as India does not allow FDI into retail, Flipkart, and therefore, Walmart was trying to tap the retail sector in food where 100% FDI was allowed.

To make matters worse and lending credence to SJM’s allegations, Walmart CEO Krish Iyer 13 hours later went on to congratulate PM Narendra Modi for BJP’s historic victory. Mahajan said this was a firefighting effort to offset the question that he had raised: why did Walmart congratulate only Badal?

“Now, we wanted to attract the attention of the government to this. As minister, she opened the gates to India for Walmart. Why is Walmart only congratulating her for victory? What is her relationship with Walmart? This must be investigated,” Mahajan said.  

“Our model of food processing must be decentralised. If we want to really give employment to farmers through food processing and lift the sector up, then we need a decentralised model. A food processing unit must be for every cluster of 5-10 villages or a town where farmers can get their produce for processing,” Mahajan said.  

MyNation reached out to Badal’s close associate for a version. While he assured he would get back to us, the story will be updated once that is in.