The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Reforms talk with wobbly walk

New Delhi, Oct. 17: Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee today issued another ringing commitment to economic reforms even as a member of the cabal of ministers opposed to the disinvestment process sent out conflicting signals to potential investors.

It’s just one more instance of tricky talk, wobbly walk. Vajpayee again used a picturesque metaphor to describe India as an elephant on the move — maybe slow and ponderous and perhaps less energetic than the tiger or the dragon (metaphors used to describe southeast Asia and China, respectively) — but once ambulant, it was unstoppable and irreversible.

He underscored his resolve to push ahead with economic reforms despite the “hiccups people see in our liberalisation process”. “There can be no looking back (on economic reforms),” Vajpayee told industrialists while inaugurating the first India-Asean business summit.

At almost the same hour, petroleum minister Ram Naik — who has been trying to block the selloff of Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum — was raising the bogey that the divestment would not take place this fiscal year. Naik said the Cabinet would take a decision only by the year-end.

If true, that spells trouble for the finances of the Union government which has targeted divestment selloff proceeds of Rs 12,000 crore this fiscal.

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