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Congress clears selloff air

New Delhi, Dec. 10: The Congress and the CPM today said they were not against disinvestment but demanded that Parliament be taken into confidence before decisions affecting national assets are taken.

“How can Parliament be kept completely out of this process' Parliament cannot be a mute spectator. Everything is being done outside Parliament,” CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee said.

Reacting to yesterday’s statement by disinvestment minister Arun Shourie that it was not necessary to get Parliament’s approval for privatising oil PSUs, Congress spokesperson Satyabrata Chaturvedi also demanded that the House be consulted.

Denying any change in his party’s stand on the repeal of Acts nationalising Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum, Chaturvedi said companies nationalised by an Act of Parliament should not be sold off by an executive order but only after a debate in the House.

“There is no somersault…. What we are objecting to is lack of transparency in the disinvestment process,” he said, dismissing reports that the Congress has compromised with the government.

He said the party had suggested several options and repeal of Bills was one such suggestion. Now it was up to the government to decide which option to prefer. He was responding to questions that the Congress had compromised on the issue of divesting the two oil majors, as earlier it had demanded repeal of the Bills and then suggested seeking the attorney-general’s opinion.

Chatterjee said the laws that led to the setting up of HPCL and BPCL provided for the acquisition of their assets by the government through the public exchequer.

“We are proceeding towards a private or a foreign monopoly from a public monopoly” in privatising HPCL, he said.“It is the people’s property and Parliament, as the representative of the people, should know what is happening.”

Speaker Manohar Joshi assured Opposition members that he had no objection to a discussion in the House.

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