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Cong keeps Left waiting for invite

New Delhi, Sept. 13: The Congress is taking its time to officially “invite” its Left allies to rejoin the United Progressive Alliance-Left co-ordination committee.

The Left parties had stopped attending the committee’s meetings following the government’s decision to divest 10 per cent of its stake in Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (Bhel).

The Congress’s invitation will come in the form of an official communication to the Left parties informing them of the government’s decision not to divest navratna companies. The Left has been arguing that divesting navratnas violates the common minimum programme (CMP).

After a meeting of four Left parties at AK Gopalan Bhavan this evening, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said: “The govern- ment is expected to send an official letter to us after the Prime Minister returns from his trip abroad.”

The government has kept the Bhel divestment on hold to pacify the Left, but the CPM and the CPI want a written pledge to honour the CMP and not divest navratnas.

Earlier this month, Manmohan Singh had informally told the Left that his government would not divest navratna companies. The conversation took place during a break at the National Integration Council meeting.

It has been almost two months since the Left suspended its participation in co-ordination committee meetings. Both sides ' the government and the Left ' had then decided to bide their time. Neither was in a hurry to break the stalemate, for they continued their interactions on critical issues in Parliament. Congress and Left MPs continued to take decisions at the joint parliamentary committees, which functioned normally.

At today’s Left meeting, the leaders decided to add one more subject to their list of demands.

“We hope to take up the issue of privatisation of water with the Prime Minister as soon as he returns,” Karat said.

CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan has already alleged that the agenda and the terms for privatisation of water are being set by the World Bank.

Also on the Left’s agenda are the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks. “We have prepared a note on the WTO and the government is willing to discuss the issues with us,” Karat said.

The subject of FDI in retail is another sticking point. “We shall raise the issue with the government,” Karat said.

The Centre wants FDI in retail. The CPM central committee has opposed it, though Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is believed to have shown interest in FDI in retail in his state.

In a recent statement, however, Bhattacharjee indicated that he is having second thoughts on the matter.

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