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Sonia, Left leaders discuss BHEL divestment issue

Saturday 2 July 2005

Special Correspondent

She seeks ideas to raise resources for social sector

First formal interaction Congress confident of early solution

NEW DELHI: United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Friday had a meeting with Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat and CPI national secretary D. Raja here in an attempt to end the standoff over disinvestment in Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL).

"There is nothing to report by way of a final decision. We are confident of a proper constructive solution in the near future," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

This was the first formal interaction between the leaders after the Left parties wrote to Ms. Gandhi on Sunday conveying their decision to suspend participation in the UPA-Left coordination committee meetings protesting against a "serious violation of the Common Minimum Programme."

Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president, was also present at the meeting.

Mr. Karat and Mr. Raja explained their stand on the violation of a specific provision in the CMP on "navaratna" companies.

"Ms. Gandhi said a way should be found for early settlement of the matter. We also hoped that discussions will help resolve the issue," Mr. Karat and Mr. Raja said at a press briefing.

Ms. Gandhi hoped that a solution could be found before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left for the G-8 meeting in Scotland next week. `No ambiguity in CMP’

The Left leaders said there was no ambiguity in the CMP on the "navaratna" companies. Mr. Raja emphasised at the meeting that public sector undertakings were the strength of economic development and self-reliance, besides providing employment to Scheduled Castes and Tribes and Other Backward Classes. Ms. Gandhi sought to know how the Government could raise resources to fund social sector commitments as promised.

The Left leaders said that they had submitted a note to the Finance Minister before the last Budget and that this was a separate issue. Mr. Raja said the huge reserves of the PSUs could be put to use. The Government could also think of innovative methods.

All-India Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas told The Hindu over telephone that there was no scope for the Left parties compromising their stand on the BHEL issue. He was in contact with Mr. Karat.

The AIFB would discuss the developments at its central committee meeting in Kolkata between July 8 and 10. "It is a policy issue based on the commitment in the CMP and there could be no dilution," he added.

See online : The Hindu

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