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Singh fulfils a wish Left can't swallow

New Delhi, Sept. 30: The 'foreign' consultants are out. So are their Left-leaning counterparts.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called Left leaders to a breakfast meeting with him tomorrow, possibly to assuage hurt feelings after dissolving all consultative groups set up by the Planning Commission.

The move, which technically meets the demand to remove foreign experts included in these panels, also closes a window that would have allowed the Left to influence national policies. The purge has also claimed economists ideologically-aligned to the Left.

Many Left leaders were taken aback by the decision, which took some time to sink in as, initially, it appeared as if the communists had a complete victory.

While CPM leaders declined to comment, the CPI's D. Raja wanted to know the logic behind the blanket dissolution.

His party colleague Gurudas Dasgupta said: 'While one wrong has been righted, another has been perpetuated. This is a negative development. In the name of removing so-called foreign experts, the government has shut the door on wider consultations with economists representing a large spectrum of opinion.'

RSP leader Abani Roy confirmed that Left leaders including him, the CPM's Harkishen Singh Surjeet, CPI's Raja and the Forward Bloc's Debabrata Biswas have been invited tomorrow to the Prime Minister's house for breakfast.

He expects the issues of dissolution of the consultative groups and foreign direct investment to be discussed. 'We will have to see how good a chutney (explanations) is served tomorrow for the idlis (decisions) announced today,' joked Roy.

The plan panel dissolved all 19 groups set up for the first time to advise it on a mid-course appraisal of the 10th Five Year Plan. The move followed an angry campaign by Left parties against inclusion of 14 experts from global agencies and firms like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group.

'The inclusion of individuals associated with international multinational organisations and foreign firms operating in India has been a subject of some discussion. The commission reviewed the matter and has decided to dissolve the consultative groups,' a statement issued by the plan panel, which is headed by the Prime Minister, said.

Plan panel officials said the decision was taken by Singh after a meeting he had with Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and finance minister P. Chidambaram yesterday.

The commission will now invite experts to consultations as and when required on an informal basis. Citizen groups, economists and trade union leaders, too, would be consulted.

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