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PM gets into huddle with Ministers

P. Manoj

NEW DELHI, Sept. 3

DIVERGENT views expressed by several Cabinet Ministers on the NDA Government's disinvestment policy came up for discussions at a high-level meeting convened here today by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, ahead of the crucial meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment (CCD) slated for September 7.

"We discussed many topics, including economic policy, foreign policy, security-related matters as well as disinvestments", the Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, told newspersons after the meeting which was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, and the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes.

Though Mr Singh was tight-lipped about the outcome of the meeting, he denied that there was any tussle among the Ministers on the disinvestment process.

Declining to hazard a guess on the outcome of the CCD meeting on September 7, Mr Singh said that the views expressed by several Cabinet Ministers would be taken up at the appropriate fora.

Today's meeting was convened by the Prime Minister after Mr Fernandes last week sought a discussion by a small Group of Ministers to review the policy on disinvestments.

Meanwhile, yet another Cabinet Minister in the Vajpayee Government has voiced his opinion against the disinvestment policy.

Mr Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, Union Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, today said that he favoured disinvestment of public sector undertakings (PSUs) under his Ministry through public offers instead of strategic sale.

"I am in favour of public issues of various PSUs for better market valuation", Mr Patil said at a function organised by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), and added that the Government planned to sell its stake in Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) through a public offer.

"We want to divest 25 per cent stake in all PSUs under my Ministry through public offers. This could slowly go up to 49 per cent", Mr Patil stated.

New guidelines for valuation of the Government's stake in PSUs would be issued soon as the valuations conducted earlier did not reflect the true value of the companies, he added.

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