The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Potshot gets past selloff screen

Oct. 20: The BJP’s message from Mumbai was loud and clear but it took time in reaching friends and family across the country.

Wrapping up a two-day conclave of central office-bearers and state presidents of the party, the BJP asked ministers as well as allies not to air their views in public.

The “advice” came a day after disinvestment minister Arun Shourie accused NDA partner Shiv Sena of doublespeak on selloff.

“Whatever views the ministers may have should be expressed only at the appropriate forum and they should not air their opinions publicly, specially on contentious issues,” BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu said in Mumbai.

Naidu sent the same massage to the NDA’s constituents, too. “I have advised them before and I would like to advise them again to discuss issues among them and not publicly as, otherwise, some people would blow it out of proportion,” he said after a party meeting that was also attended by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

However, coal and mines minister Uma Bharti said in Delhi her ministry’s suggestions on the Nalco disinvestment had been “consistently ignored” and she would now place them before the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister.

“Whatever issues disinvestment minister Arun Shourie and I have, I would not call them differences. The suggestions and opinions given by my ministry on the procedure for disinvestment in Nalco were consistently ignored. But I do not want to make those opinions public. I have decided to place them before the Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister,” Bharti told a television channel.

Reacting to Bharti’s reported statement that anyone who trivialises her struggle on Nalco would bite the dust, Shourie had yesterday wanted to know whether she referred to the Prime Minister. Shourie had also warned that Nalco would start incurring losses if its privatisation was delayed.

Explaining that she was not against disinvestment, Bharti said she only had objections to certain points in the selloff procedure.

“Some people have been trying to reduce the seriousness of my objections by spreading baseless rumours,” she said, adding that the name of the Prime Minister was being dragged into the matter “unnecessarily”.

However, in Bangalore, defence minister and NDA convener George Fernandes — who spearheaded the latest campaign against divestment in oil giants BPCL and HPCL — declined comment on either the selloff controversy or Shourie’s statement.

In Mumbai, the BJP president said Vajpayee and other senior party leaders are likely to meet the RSS leadership to clear “perceptional differences”.

“The top party leadership is likely to soon meet the RSS top brass to resolve the differences, specially with regard to economic issues like disinvestment, which has come in for criticism from the parivar,” he said.

On the purported remarks by VHP leader Praveen Togadia against Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Naidu said: “The BJP is not in agreement with usage of such words, whether it is the Congress or any other political party. We only treat them as political rivals and not as enemies.”

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