India government wins upper house vote on retail reform

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) President Mayawati (C) leaves Parliament house during the winter session in New Delhi on December 5, 2012.
Image caption Ms Mayawati of BSP said it supported the government because the move was not binding on states

The decision by India's government to open the retail sector to foreign competition has received full parliamentary backing.

A total of 123 MPs voted in favour of the government's decision and 109 MPs opposed it in the upper house.

On Wednesday, the Congress-led government won a key vote on the decision in the lower house.

The win will help the government push ahead with further economic reforms to bolster India's slowing economy.

Friday's win in the upper house came after the regional Bahujan Samaj Party's 15 MPs voted with the government, which does not have a majority in the chamber.

The BSP said it supported the government because the move was not binding on states.

The party had walked out before the vote in the lower house on Wednesday, helping the government win.

Ahead of the vote in the upper house on Friday, MPs from another regional party, Samajwadi Party, walked out of parliament, bringing down the margin for victory.

The decision to allow foreign direct investment was hotly debated on Thursday and Friday in the 244-member upper house.

Opposition parties, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), oppose the government's decision to allow global firms - such as Walmart and Tesco - to buy up to a 51% stake in multi-brand retailers in India.

The move has been strongly opposed by tens of thousands of small businesses and corner shops who fear they would be put out of business.

But the government and business leaders argue that it will boost the economy and transform the way Indians shop.

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