The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Food and flush-out lighten Left mood

New Delhi, Sept. 22: After a sumptuous lunch and a dinner at finance minister P. Chidambaram's new residence, Left leaders seem to have softened their stand on a number of key issues relating to foreign direct investment.

A meeting of all Left parties is expected to take a decision on the foreign investment question later this month.

To create the appropriate 'atmosphere', the government has bowed to the Left's request on relatively less important issues like 'nudging' World Bank and ADB representatives off the Planning Commission's consultative panels and expanding a food-for-work programme into a full-fledged employment guarantee scheme.

CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury, who with his colleague Prakash Karat had a power lunch with Chidambaram, suggested that the Left would take a stand on FDI issues only after 'the government sends it response to our note on the issue'.

Sources said it was explained to the Left leaders that changes were being made in the proposal to raise FDI in telecom to address their concerns on security.

While CPI leaders A.B. Bardhan and D. Raja had dinner with Chidambaram tonight, RSP and Forward Bloc leaders will meet him later this week.

Chidambaram, who has taken over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's former residence at 17 Safdarjung Road, is holding these meetings to explain the fine print.

The Left has also dropped its objections to raising FDI in aviation but will stick to its stand that foreign airlines should not be allowed to buy into domestic airlines. On insurance, however, the Left will have its way.

The government has ensured that representatives of the World Bank and firms like McKinsey stayed off meetings of the consultative committees, which began today. The experts had last night offered to quit. A decision will be taken after the Prime Minister returns.

Left-leaning economists who had yesterday threatened to resign from the plan panel's consultation process turned up. However, an unfazed Arun Maira of the Boston Consulting Group came for a meeting and made it clear that he would continue doing so till he was 'kicked out'.

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