All disinvestment decisions on hold
New Delhi, July 6
Even though this setback does not hold the portends of rocking the stability of the UPA, the inherent strains in the coalition arrangement have come to the fore on core economic issues.
The Left parties supporting the government from outside have vehemently opposed disinvestment in profit-making PSUs like the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) and NALCO.
Taking serious note of the observations made in Chennai earlier in the day by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi if the DMK should remain in the UPA fold on the disinvestment of the NLC, the Prime Minister called a halt to the process on the specious plea that there have been representations from some of the constituents.
“Taking into account their concerns, the Prime Minister has decided to keep all disinvestment decisions and proposals on hold pending further review,” the PMO noted in a statement.
With the NLC becoming a major political controversy in Tamil Nadu, DMK’s Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his ministerial colleague A. Raja met the Prime Minister and conveyed to him Mr Karunanidhi’s views of the futility of being part of the UPA especially when the Centre was not in a position to accept the demands of the workers.
The Prime Minister went into a huddle with Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Mr Maran.
Dr Manmohan Singh is believed to have spoken to Mr Karunanidhi over the telephone conveying the Centre’s decision to put on hold all disinvestment decisions.
On his part, Mr Maran, a confidant of Mr Karunanidhi, sought to play down DMK’s tough stance on the disinvestment of the NLC, stressing “we are part of the government and the matter will be sorted out within the UPA”.
He said the Prime Minister would speak to his leader to find a way out.
Just last week, the Cabinet had decided to sell 10 per cent equity in two state-run enterprises — NLC and NALCO.
Last year, the government held back from divesting 10 per cent shares in BHEL, thanks to the Left’s vociferous protests.
The government is stifled in moving ahead with its disinvestment programme to fund other mega socio-economic programmes.
Just as the Left, with a combined tally of a shade over 60 in the Lok Sabha, cannot be ignored, the DMK’s arithmetic cannot be wished away. The DMK has 16 MPs in the Lok Sabha and its ally PMK six.
Without their support the UPA will come crashing down.
“The decision not to proceed with the disinvestment of shares in the NLC and NALCO is welcome,” CPM general secretary Prakash Karat’s statement said.
He congratulated the employees of the two public sector undertakings for their firm struggle and appreciated Mr Karunanidhi’s stand.
The CPI also welcomed the government’s turnaround, describing today’s move as a good decision.
CPM’s Sitaram Yechuri underplayed any threat to the survival of the UPA government.