Saturday, September 1, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet reshuffle today
*7 new faces expected, Sinha unlikely to go
  *Shourie, Shahnawaz may be promoted
Rajeev Sharma and S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 31
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will effect a major reshuffle of his 69-member Council of Ministers tomorrow evening and is expected to induct seven ministers, including two of Cabinet rank, and five Ministers of State. Two Ministers of State may be promoted to the Cabinet rank.

The new Cabinet Ministers who are expected to join the ministry are Mr V.P. Goyal (BJP Treasurer from Mumbai) and Mr Karia Munda from Jharkhand (tribal leader,who was an aspirant for CM’s post and had refused to take oath as Minister of State during the last reshuffle.

Mr Sunderlal Patwa resigned today. Mr Satyanarain Jatiya , Mr Jai Singh Gaekwad, Mr Dhananjay Kumar, Mr Bachhi Singh Rawat, Mr Munni Lal, Mr Satyavrat Mukherjee and Mr Shriram Chauhan are expected to be dropped from the ministry.

Mr V.P. Goyal is likely to be given the Shipping portfolio and Mr Munda Coal or Mines.

Sources said Urban Development Minister Jagmohan may be shifted to another ministry, possibly Tourism.

Two Ministers of State —Mr Arun Shourie and Mr Shahnawaz Hussain— are likely to be given full Cabinet rank. At the age of 32 years and eight months, Mr Hussain becomes the youngest-ever Cabinet Minister in the history of independent India.

The five Ministers of State to be inducted are Mr Anna Patil (will replace Mr Jai Singh Gaekwad from Maharashtra), Mr Ashok Pradhan (will replace Mr Shriram Sharma—both SC leaders), Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad (will replace Mr Munni Lal from Bihar), Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudi from Bihar and Mr Vijay Goel from Delhi.

Mr Pradhan is in South Africa and is likely to return tomorrow evening.

Mr Sinha got a formidable saviour in the BJP stalwart L.K. Advani who has stoutly opposed dropping the Finance Minister from the Cabinet, well-placed sources said tonight.

Tomorrow’s reshuffle is expected to touch only the BJP with an eye on the coming UP elections and is unlikely to rope in the Trinamool Congress and the PMK.

The government came into action yesterday, following a communication from Rashtrapati Bhavan that President K.R. Narayanan had recovered well enough from his illness and was available whenever the government wished to conduct a reshuffle in the Council of Ministers.

The government was not willing to effect a reshuffle during the September 2-17 ‘pitra paksha’ days which are considered to be inauspicious.

The triumvirate of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Union Home Minister L. K. Advani and External Affairs and Defence Minister Jaswant Singh met over lunch yesterday where the Cabinet reshuffle dominated their discussions.

Incidentally, Mr Jaswant Singh had already gone to Mr Advani earlier and had a brief discussion.

Later in the evening, Mr Advani and Mr Jaswant Singh felt the need of having another meeting with the Prime Minister and they went to the PM’s Race Course residence. This meeting lasted over one-and-a-half hours.

It is understood that Mr Advani firmly backed Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s continuance and advised against his dropping from the Union Cabinet.

Mr Advani felt that if Mr Sinha was to be dropped from the Cabinet, it would send wrong signals and amount to the government’s admission of guilt in the UTI scam. 


Crucial NDC meeting today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 31
Contentious and politically sensitive issues are likely to figure during the 49th meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) which will be held tomorrow under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to discuss the Draft Approach Paper of the tenth Five-Year Plan (2002-07).

The meeting is also likely to see the chief ministers of Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa joining hands to put up a resistance to the proposal from the Centre to avoid creating new refining capacities in the country. The proposal would directly hit these states as the Bathinda Refinery in Punjab, the Bina refinery in Madhya Pradesh and the East Coast Refinery at Paradeep in Orissa will come up during the tenth plan period.

The Draft Approach Paper envisages stepping up the growth rate of GDP to 8 per cent per annum over the Plan period and proposes to establish specific monitorable targets covering economic, social and environmental dimensions to human development.

The Full Planning Commission which met in June to discuss the approach paper was of the view that the ambitious growth rate of 8 per cent is achievable only through larger investment in agriculture, and infrastructure sector and the realisation of the target could involve some politically difficult decisions including levying of user charges and disinvestment in loss-making public sector undertakings.

The approach document recognises the serious gaps that are emerging in infrastructure, particularly in power, railways and public investment in irrigation. The flow of private investment in infrastructure has been below expectations as, in many instances, the requisite enabling framework is not yet in place.

In respect of the power sector, the paper has proposed rationalisation of tariffs through State Electricity Regulatory Commissions; unbundling generation, transmission and distribution; privatising distribution and enabling bulk consumers to access power directly.

Emaphasis is to be laid on improving efficiency of public assets and quality of expenditure in the public sector requires rationalisation of central sector and centrally sponsored schemes through convergence, weeding out and transfer of schemes to the states.Back


Don't derail refinery project, Badal warns Centre
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 31
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has warned the BJP-led NDA government that any attempt to “slow down or derail” the grassroot refinery in Bathinda is likely to result in violent reaction from people.

In a forthright and strongly-worded letter to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on the eve of the National Development Council (NDC) meeting here, Mr Badal stressed that the item pertaining to “slowing down of at least new grassroot refineries in view of excess capacity” should be deleted from the agenda.

He had no doubt that there appeared to be a “highly motivated attempt on the part of some vested interest” to derail the refinery project “coming up in my state at Phulokhari in Bathinda.”

Mr Badal was categoric that any attempt to slow down new grassroot refineries to be developed by PSU oil companies in major states like Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa as envisaged by the Union Government amounted to discrimination as such restrictions or control did not apply to the expansion of refineries in the private sector.

He pointed out that states like Punjab which did not have the benefit of such major investments would reap the benefits of attendant economic development.

The Chief Minister did not hedge words in telling the Prime Minister that any slow down in the Bathinda project might lead to violent action “from the people of my state.”

He stressed for giving a “boost for the early completion of the refinery project at Bathinda in Punjab. This will go a long way in meeting the demand for petroleum projects in Punjab both for agricultural and transport sectors at optimal cost to the consumer,” he observed.

About the present marginal excess capacity in refining, Mr Badal said this was a fallout of lower growth in the demand for petroleum products during the past two years because of economic slowdown, especially in the industrial sector.

He was confident that the current economic slowdown was a temporary phenomenon. In this context he said that various measures proposed by the Union government would provide the necessary fillip to the economy in the near future and consequent growth in the demand for petroleum products for enhanced industrial activity.

Acknowledging that development of refineries was a time-consuming process requiring 45-48 months, Mr Badal drew pointed attention to POL imports resulting in a huge outgo of foreign exchange because of refining capacity falling short of the demand.

He recalled that Mr Vajpayee had laid the foundation stone for the Bathinda refinery on November 13, 1998. Further, such a major investment in Punjab was the first of its kind since independence. More importantly, the people of Punjab were “looking forward to an industrial revolution on the completion of the project.”

“For averting the recurrence of such a phenomenon in future, I strongly urge that the ongoing refinery project at Bathinda in Punjab should be given a boost for early completion. I shall be grateful for your deleting the above item from the agenda to be taken up at the NDC meeting,” Mr Badal added.

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