The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM step-in after selloff storm

New Delhi, Dec. 4: Worried by aspersions cast on the divestment process, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is planning to call a meeting of key ministers.

An attack in Parliament by the Shiv Sena alleging improprieties in the way Centaur Hotel in Mumbai was sold to an RSS sympathiser and taunts by the Congress that the BJP was a house divided on divestment have prompted the Prime Minister to step in.

Earlier, Vajpayee had asked Lal Krishna Advani to mediate between warring ministers and a series of meetings was held last month between the deputy Prime Minister and disinvestment minister Arun Shourie, petroleum minister Ram Naik, defence minister George Fernandes and mines minister Uma Bharti.

The Prime Ministerís aides said the urgency of a Vajpayee initiative stems from the fact that the Sena was supported in part by the Samata Party and even the Biju Janata Dal, all important constituents of the NDA. The Trinamul Congress, estranged but nominally a partner, was also critical.

A few BJP members chipped in, too, with snide comments. Ram Jethmalani, for instance, said the Centaur issue proved privatisation was necessary since even in the job of selling, the private party had done a better job. The government sold Centaur to Batra Hospitality which resold it to the Sahara group in a few months at a hefty profit.

The Prime Minister is likely to lay down the line firmly at the meeting that all differences must be sorted out internally with no public airing of grievances.

n See Business Telegraph

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