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Friday, Aug 30, 2002

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CCD meet on oil PSUs sell-off deferred

Our Bureau

NEW DELHI, Aug. 29

THE NDA convener, Mr George Fernandes, was miffed once when the IPCL deal cruised through without him being allowed to make his point in the Cabinet.

The controversy related to the award of IPCL to Reliance Industries Ltd in the backdrop of it becoming a near-monopoly player in the petrochemicals sector. This was not to happen again. And, therefore the Government decided to postpone the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment (CCD) meeting scheduled for today to discuss the privatisation of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) as the Minister is abroad on tour.

This time around, the Disinvestment and the Petroleum Ministries are daggers drawn over the sell-off, with the Petroleum Ministry voting against it.

Mr Fernandes has not been a silent bystander all this while. A few months ago, he tried to broker a consensus between the Petroleum Minister, Mr Ram Naik, and the Disninvestment Minister, Mr Arun Shourie.

The meeting, however, never took place, but Mr Fernandes had by then taken a firm position against the sell-off. He has argued that there is a national security angle since privatised oil companies may not maintain requisite oil stocks in the event of war if they find it non-remunerative. Not surprisingly, the markets reacted to the postponement of the meeting. The stock prices of HPCL and BPCL fell by around 4.5 per cent during the day.

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