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Reform: Despite Left, PM pushes right thing

Tuesday 6 June 2006, by SAMANTA*Anjali Dhal

NEW DELHI, JUNE 5 : With Assembly elections over, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given a clear signal to the Left by going ahead with the fuel price hike that he is not going to delay crucial and tough economic decisions. Next on the agenda is pending disinvestment proposals.

It’s learnt that over the past couple of weeks when the PM was recovering from a wrist surgery, he found time to reflect on issues that had been put on hold largely due to the Assembly elections.

In keeping with the demands of the coalition, the Government did not want the relationship with the Left to take an ugly turn. Now that the Left has made its political gains by winning Kerala and West Bengal, the sense is that the PM wants to get back to business regardless of the Left’s threat of a nationwide strike.


The PM is also keen to move soon on the 5-10 per cent disinvestment proposal for the Neyveli Lignite Corporation. This was listed in the last Cabinet meeting but was postponed and is likely to make it to the agenda later this week.

The Left has been opposed to this move as the corporation also has expansion plans in Kerala. In principle, the Left has not favoured disinvestment but the Government is now unlikely to soft pedal the issue any longer.

Also on the Government’s agenda is to act soon on the PFRDA (Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority) Bill that seeks to revamp the manner in which pensions are handled. This will involve contributions from employees into a fund that can be invested in the stock market, removing the burden from the Government.

Here again, the Government has encountered Left opposition. But the feeling now is to not get bogged by these pressures which are only delaying important reform initiatives and giving rise to a negative sentiment.

According to reliable sources, the PM feels that Left governments in West Bengal and Kerala too will need to wrestle with such issues of economic and fiscal reforms. Given that a section of the Left has been more practical in its economic approach, the hope in the PMO is that better reasoning shall prevail in due course.

Regardless of the outcome, sources said, PM has made up his mind not to endlessly postpone critical decisions of governance. At the same time, Singh is expected to calibrate his approach and not escalate this to a political stand-off. A lot will depend on the extent the Left carries ahead its protest over the fuel price hike.

Meanwhile, there is a question mark on whether the PM will stop in Kolkata during his visit to Arunachal Pradesh next week.

See online : The Indian Express

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