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Left suspends coordination meetings

Monday 27 June 2005, by PRASAD*K.V.

"Perturbed" over UPA Government’s decision on BHEL, parties say NCMP is not honoured

NEW DELHI: The Left parties on Sunday decided to suspend participation in Coordination Committee meetings with the United Progressive Alliance after taking exception to the "first serious violation" of the National Common Minimum Programme. The transgression was the Manmohan Singh Government’s decision to offload equity in BHEL, to be followed by disinvestment in other `navaratnas.’ The Left characterised this as "creeping privatisation’’ of profitable public sector units.

Firing the first warning shot, the four Left parties supporting the UPA Government from outside made it clear that despite repeated disagreements conveyed on policy issues, the Government went ahead with its decisions.

"The Left-UPA Coordination Committee, despite discussing the matter, has been unable to ensure adherence to the CMP commitment. In the light of this, we find no useful purpose will be served in attending meetings of the Coordination Committee. Therefore, we have decided to regretfully suspend our participation in the Coordination Committee," the Left parties leaders informed UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in a letter.

The letter, signed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan, All-India Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas, and Revolutionary Socialist Party central committee leader Abani Roy, was released at a joint press conference here. CPI national secretary D. Raja and AIFB secretary G. Devarajan were present.

Earlier, the four Left parties discussed the issue and were briefed about the June 19 UPA-Left coordination meeting by Mr. Raja who had attended it. The general secretaries of the CPI, CPI(M) and Forward Bloc could not attend as they were away. The Left parties had asked the Government not to go ahead with the BHEL disinvestment before it was discussed. Veteran Marxist leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet also attended the Coordination meeting.

The Left leaders said what perturbed them most was the manner in which the Government decided to go ahead with the disinvestment of shares in BHEL, to be followed by other `navaratnas’ and profitable public sector units. "The Finance Minister has set a target of realising Rs. 10,000 crores in the Union Budget for 2005-06," the letter said.

" No scope for misunderstanding"

Referring to the NCMP, which states "navaratna companies [are] to be retained in the public sector while they raise resources from the market," the Left letter stated: "There is no scope for misunderstanding here. Navaratnas like BHEL can go to the market for raising capital for their own needs. It is not for the Government to sell their shares and appropriate those proceeds. The proposal for a national investment fund is merely a mechanism to facilitate the Government appropriating the proceeds of disinvestment."

The Left leaders said it was well known that successive rounds of disinvestment would pave the way for the eventual privatisation of the PSUs concerned. It was not enough to say that "disinvestment’’ did not mean privatisation.

"We are surprised by the repeated assertion that the Government will retain 51 per cent share in these enterprises which means that it intends to sell off 49 per cent shares. From 51 per cent to 49 per cent is just a small step. It is creeping privatisation."

The first time the Left parties expressed concern over the proposed move by the Government to offload equity in 35 PSUs was on October 27, 2004. The next day Dr. Singh sought to know from the Left parties the basis on which they issued a statement and denied that his Government had taken any decision to disinvest in these units.

Dr. Singh spoke to Mr. Karat on Saturday and sought to know the reason behind the Left’s concern. On Sunday, Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president, got in touch with Mr. Raja and wanted to know the reason behind the decision.

See online : The Hindu

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