The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM's role model tag on Buddhadeb

New Delhi, Aug. 24: If Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said yesterday he supported what Manmohan Singh was trying to do in Delhi, it was the Prime Minister’s turn today to return the compliment.

“Every chief minister should learn from Buddhadeb’s role model,” Singh told Parliament amid enthusiastic thumping of desks.

The glee in Congress ranks was the most palpable because they thought the Prime Minister, an economist by training, had made a clever political turn by exploiting an apparent contradiction in the CPM.

Travelling in Singapore yesterday, Bhattacharjee had said he favoured “100 per cent privatisation”, presumably including foreign investment, of new ports and airports.

It seemed his statement was in conflict with the party’s position, which is not comfortable with fully private owned ports and airports.

Of late, however, it appears to have come round to the view that though existing ports and airports cannot be privatised, new projects can come up with private investment.

There was little obvious reason for the Prime Minister to comment on Bhattacharjee’s trip since he was speaking in the Rajya Sabha on the employment guarantee bill.

Yet, he chose to digress. “He is doing what we should all be doing,” Singh said, referring to Bhattacharjee’s efforts to attract foreign investment.

CPM politburo members Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat were in the House when Singh made his comments. In Delhi, the CPM has been opposing nearly every reform measure.

On the contrary, Bhattacharjee said: “Our Prime Minister is working very hard to take India forward and he has a vision for it.”

A prime ministerial aide said Singh had read today The Telegraph report on Bhattacharjee’s statements.

If Singh caused consternation in the CPM, other Left parties were vocal. “We are opposed to giving foreign investors control over such sensitive areas as airports and telecom. The CPM must resolve its own contradictions,” said Abani Roy of the RSP.

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