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Naidu boost to Vajpayee reforms

New Delhi, Oct. 5: The Telugu Desam Party, a key NDA ally, today came out strongly in defence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s economic reforms even as the controversy over disinvestment continues to rage with the Union Cabinet and the BJP divided over the issue.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam chief N. Chandrababu Naidu said, barring defence, all sectors should be thrown open to the private sector and that second-generation reforms must be given a further push.

Naidu, while talking to a group of reporters here, said he supported “reforms with a human face” and that they should be transparent, declining to comment on anti-reform ministers such as George Fernandes and Murli Manohar Joshi or the Sangh parivar.

“I support all those who are for reforms,” the Desam chief said, on being asked if he supported the Prime Minister when of a group of ministers and Sangh parivar outfits were opposing the reforms.

To questions on infighting in the government and the BJP over reforms, the Andhra chief minister said he would not like to comment on individuals, but “only on reforms.”

Naidu said all developing countries were opting for reforms in labour, power, the social sector, etc. and that we could not get results without achieving this. “Reform does not mean one sector, it should encompass all sectors,” he added.

The Telugu Desam leader did not buy the idea that oil should be deleted from the list of strategic sectors on the ground that oil in private hands during times of war might have security implications. Asked if any particular company had refused to supply oil during war, Naidu said the government had absolute power and it could always take over such companies.

“Our way of thinking should change,” the chief minister said, adding, without mentioning names: “We should not give wrong signals to the people who are investing.”

“I am not going into any individual sector. I am a staunch supporter of reforms, making it transparent and going step by step,” Naidu said, refusing to go into the controversy over disinvestment of oil PSUs.

Asked if he was in favour of disinvestment in profit-making oil companies, Naidu said “their profit should go to the people. Is it going to them'” It is not a question of mere profit, but reforms on the whole, he said, adding it had to be analysed in detail and a wrong signal should not go out to the people.

Stating that his party was always for reforms, Naidu said now that the country was passing through second-generation reforms, the government should analyse such reforms all over the world and work to eradicate poverty.

Citing the success of privatisation in telecom, Naidu said the efficiency of public sector units should improve to that they could compete the world over as the country was not in a position to pump in crores of rupees for their inefficiency. Thanks to reforms, phones are now available at more affordable price and the day may not be far away when local calls can be made free of cost, he added.

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