The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Left five line up against Montek

New Delhi, Sept. 21: The bonhomie after the Prime Minister's Saturday luncheon came under strain today with five economists on the Planning Commission's advisory bodies threatening to quit unless foreign consultants were removed.

Making their stand clear, the five ' all close to the CPM ' sent a letter to deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia who had yesterday ruled out removing World Bank and Asian Development Bank representatives from the commission's consultative bodies.

'We cannot sit together with representatives of these agencies in these committees. We would urge you to reconsider your decision to have these representatives, failing which we would have to withdraw from these bodies,' the academics said.

Four of the protesters 'Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, C.P. Chandrashekhar and Jayati Ghosh ' are economists at Jawaharlal Nehru University. The fifth, T.M Thomas Issac, is associated with Kerala's Centre for Development Studies.

Before giving in the letter, the economists met CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury at the party headquarters. They were roped into the committees after the UPA government took charge at the Centre.

Although the quit note points to a sudden rise in Left temperatures, core Planning Commission officials ' even Left-leaning members like Abhijit Sen and Anwar- ul Hoda ' seem to be firmly behind Ahluwalia on the controversy.

'There is no dissent within the Planning Commission. We have talked among ourselves, there is no dissent. The Planning Commission is unanimous,' Hoda said, terming the letter 'unfortunate'.

However, the CPM lay the blame on Ahluwalia saying it was his 'needless provocation' that had forced the economists' hand.

In a statement, the party said Ahluwalia's remarks came despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assuring the Left the matter would be taken up at the next UPA-Left coordination committee meeting later this month.

Only last Saturday, the CPM top brass ' H.S. Surjeet, Jyoti Basu and Sitaram Yechury ' had expressed satisfaction with the talks they had with Singh and Sonia Gandhi over lunch.

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