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Bhel stake: Left thrusts, govt parries

New Delhi, June 19: The Left parties iterated their opposition to the Centre’s decision to divest 10 per cent stake in Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (Bhel) but the government is believed to have stuck to the position that the cabinet decision is unlikely to be reversed.

The CPM-led Left bloc is likely to meet again next week to discuss the issue and decide its course of action even as trade unions are gearing up to take to the streets to protest the divestment.

The government, however, assured the Left that the public sector character of the navratnas ' the jewels among the public sector units ' would not be altered.

A meeting of the Left-UPA coordination committee this evening at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence also discussed the government’s “present” position on global trade and the Gujarat government’s refusal to implement the directives of a central review committee to drop charges under the defunct Prevention of Terrorism Act against those accused in the Godhra train carnage case.

The Centre will move court against the Gujarat government’s decision to brush aside the Pota review panel’s directive, Yechury said.

A statement jointly issued by finance minister P. Chidambaram and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said: “The Left parties and the government exchanged views with particular reference to the Bhel case. The government has made it clear that the PSU character of the navratnas will not be altered. The government has also said that the future capital requirements of the navratnas will be met. The Left iterated their position on disinvestment but agreed to discuss the matter among themselves.”

The issue apparently got entangled in semantics as the Left’s position, as articulated by Yechury, was that divestment and privatisation were “co-terminus” and this was enshrined in the UPA’s National Common Minimum Programme.

Sources said the Centre pointed out that as long as it holds a 51 per cent stake in a company, offloading does not amount to privatisation. A Left leader then asked: “Why have even a 5 or 10 per cent dilution in the existing holdings'”

CPI leader D. Raja later said: “We expressed our strong opposition (on Bhel) and we do not agree with the government’s explanation.”

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