The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Left digs in heels on Bhel, Cong mum

New Delhi, July 3: The Left stands as firm as ever against divestment in Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (Bhel) as it prepares for a second meeting with Sonia Gandhi to try and break the deadlock.

The Left has opposed the government’s decision to sell 10 per cent equity in the public sector company, saying it violates the common minimum programme (CMP).

The Left parties today said they had reached a “consensus” not to accept any divestment in any of the so-called navratna PSUs, of which Bhel is one. The Centre must, therefore, revoke its decision.

Congress leaders have dropped no hints on how they plan to deal with the Left’s rigidity on the subject. They continue to deny that the Bhel decision is a violation of the CMP.

Union finance minister P. Chidambaram, under whom the department of disinvestment comes, is said to be privately suggesting that the Bhel divestment be kept on hold till the matter is thrashed out with the Left.

Chidambaram attended Thursday’s meeting of the Congress core group at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s official residence as a special invitee. At the meeting, party president Sonia Gandhi and other leaders had discussed the stalemate over Bhel.

Left leaders, however, have no idea if Chidambaram is considering any way out of the deadlock. “We have no communication from the finance minister,” said one leader.

The Left decision not to budge came at a meeting today between the CPM and CPI general secretaries, Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan.

Bardhan had not accompanied Karat to meet Sonia, the ruling alliance’s chairperson, on Friday as he was away from Delhi. His party colleague D. Raja stood in for him. Karat today briefed Bardhan on the discussions with Sonia.

There were no indications today of the second meeting with Sonia taking place on Monday. “So far, we have no information about a possible meeting tomorrow,” a Left leader said.

“As of now, no meeting with the Left leaders is fixed for tomorrow,” Congress leader Ambika Soni said this evening. “We had only hinted that the earliest the second meeting could take place was Monday.”

The only Congress leader to accompany Sonia to the Friday meeting was Ahmed Patel, her political secretary and point man on the issue. Patel is in Gujarat to file his nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha polls. Soni said he is expected back in Delhi tomorrow.

An early second meeting has been proposed as the Prime Minister will be away from the capital for four days. He is scheduled to leave for Scotland on Tuesday to attend the G-8 summit.

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