The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Left looks for face-saver

New Delhi, Feb. 2: With the Centre showing few signs of a rethink on the airport contracts till this evening, the Left is looking for a face-saver that can defuse the situation.

In public, the Left leaders maintained that the government must scrap the cabinet decision to hand over modernisation of airports to private players.

But, off the record, some leaders said a court intervention could bail them out of a situation that was fast becoming intractable.

Anil Ambani’s Reliance has gone to court against the bidding process. The Left is now hoping that a court order could give it a breather since the unions are refusing to settle for anything other than modernisation by the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

Left leaders do not want to be seen as backing out of the agitation but they realise that it may not be possible to sustain the pitch for a long time if the government refuses to budge.

The leaders of four Left parties met at the CPM headquarters this evening and decided to meet the Prime Minister tomorrow to urge him again to hand over the modernisation project to the AAI.

Asked what the Left can do since the cabinet has approved the proposal, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan said “cabinet decision is not a word of the Bible”, suggesting the government can cancel the contracts if it wants to. So far, the government has shown no signs of giving in.

“We call upon all political parties and organisations to rally behind the employees,” the CPI leader said.

The Left said the government should call the airport union representatives for talks ' a demand civil aviation minister Praful Patel met by the evening. The minister will meet AAI and labour leaders tomorrow.

For the Left, the crux of the row lies in privatisation and the route to modernisation. Citu leader Tapan Sen said: “The issue is political. It is about privatisation. Why should the AAI give up control'”

“The bidding process has not been fair. There is the issue of loss of jobs,” Sen added.

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