Thursday, October 5, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee rules out immediate rollback
From T.V. Lakshminarayan
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 4 — In a dramatic reversal of stance, the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today ruled out an immediate rollback in the prices of petroleum products saying that a review would have to await his return from Mumbai after a knee operation.

Mr Vajpayee spoke to the Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress leader, Ms Mamata Banerjee, today and conveyed to her that the government was closely watching the oil prices at the international level.

The government proposes to have a second look at the tariff of petroleum products recently announced after his return from Mumbai subsequent to his knee operation, Cabinet spokesman and Union Minister Pramod Mahajan informed newspersons here.

The Prime Minister requested Ms Banerjee to continue discharging her ministerial duties in the meantime and not to press her resignation.

The reaction of the Trinamool Congress could not be ascertained immediately but it was apparent there could be a setback to its relations with the National Democratic Alliance.

Only yesterday, Ms Banerjee had announced her decision to defer her resignation from the Vajpayee ministry along with her senior colleague Ajit Kumar Panja till October 6 after she claimed that there was a categorical assurance from the Prime Minister to slash down the prices of diesel, LPG and kerosene.

The Prime Minister had despatched a special emissary, Mr Sudhindra Kulkarni, to resolve the impasse and Ms Banerjee had said Mr Vajpayee’s assurance was conveyed by Mr Kulkarni.

Ms Banerjee and Mr Panja had tendered their resignation on September 30, giving a three-day ultimatum to the Prime Minister for withdrawal of the price hike decision on petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG.

According to the Prime Minister’s schedule in Mumbai, he would arrive there on the evening of October 8 or on the morning of October 9. He would be admitted to the hospital on the afternoon of October 9.

His operation would be conducted on the morning of October 10 and he would convalesce at Breach Candy Hospital for five to seven days. He would spend another four to seven days at Raj Bhavan in Mumbai.

In other words, the oil price review would not take place at least till the last week of this month.

Meanwhile, Petroleum Minister Ram Naik today said he had not yet got any directive from Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to roll back prices of petroleum products, including kerosene and cooking gas, in the wake of the demand made by Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee.

“No such direction from PM,” Mr Naik told reporters after the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs when asked about the rollback in view of the reported package offered to Ms Banerjee following her resignation from the Union Cabinet.

He said the issue also did not come up for discussion during the meeting, adding that it was for the Prime Minister to decide on the issue of rolling back prices which were hiked on September 30 to bridge an estimated Rs 23,600 crore oil pool deficit.

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