Sarbajeet K. Sen

New Delhi, July 13

THE disinvestment tussle between the UPA and the Left parties could move beyond BHEL.

After putting the UPA into an uncomfortable position on the issue of the proposed divestment of Government stake in BHEL, the Left now plans to pin the Government down on the entire issue of public sector disinvestment.

Seeking major changes in disinvestment procedures, the Left now wants to be consulted before the Government makes any formal announcements on disinvestment in any public sector undertaking. A demand along these lines would widen the ongoing tussle beyond divestment in profit-making PSUs or Navratna units.

"Before making any announcement of disinvestment in any public sector undertaking, whether profit-making or not, the Government should consult us (the Left parties)," Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader Mr Abani Roy said.

Speaking to Business Line, Mr Roy said such prior approval would eliminate the possibility of further embarrassment to the ruling Congress-led coalition. "The BHEL divestment issue is being fought out in full public view. If the Government discusses its disinvestment plans with us before making any public announcement such embarrassment would not be repeated in future," Mr Roy, who was among the Left leaders negotiating with the UPA on the BHEL issue , said.

Mr Roy also said that the Left could, in fact, press the UPA for providing a more detailed picture of its disinvestment plans for the full tenure of the present Government. "This year it is BHEL, but what about 2006-07 or 2007-08? We would like to know the long-term plans of the Government," he said.

The Government's proposed move to disinvest 10 per cent of its holding in BHEL has caused severe consternation among Left parties, who have pointed out that this goes against CMP (Common Minimum Programme) assurances that there would be no disinvestments in profit-making undertakings.

In fact, aggrieved at the Government's stance, the Left parties have withdrawn from coordination sittings with the UPA. The intense standoff has also resulted in two rounds of discussions between the Left leaders and the UPA Chairperson, Ms Sonia Gandhi.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 14, 2005)
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