Govt, Sangh Outfits Coming Closer On Economic Agenda

New Delhi, November 29: | Updated: Nov 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
There is a growing synergy between the Vajpayee government and Rashtriya Swayamse-vak Sangh (RSS) on the economic agenda, signalling a greater influence of the Sangh Parivar on policy framework in times to come.

According to sources, Mr Vajpayee, deputy prime minister LK Advani and finance minister Jaswant Singh have been directly interacting with leading economic thinkers of the Parivar and taking their inputs on specific economic policy issues. This process began with intensive dialogue between Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani over disinvestment of public sector enterprises, specially public oil companies, and is continuing since then.

Co-convenor of RSS arm Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) S Gurumurthy, who is also seen as the economic face of the Parivar, when contacted by FE confirmed that the RSS viewpoint on economic reforms has been personally looked into by Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani for the past some time now.

When asked how would RSS and SJM rate the governments response to their suggestions on economic issues, Mr Gurumur-thy has said, the government has been responsive, though he declined to get into specific instances where Parivars influence resulted in a policy review.

A chartered accountant by profession, Mr Gurumurthy is perceived to be very close to Mr Advani and Mr Singh, and also wields considerable clout amongst the RSS brass, including its chief K Sudarshan and general-secretary HV Seshadri. His influence in both the government and RSS has enabled to bridge the gap between the two establishments on economic issues, says a top RSS functionary.

RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav confirmed Mr Guru-murthys role in setting the economic agenda of the organisation. He is a successful financial consultant and a senior fundamental ideologue of RSS, says Mr Madhav.

Rajya Sabha MP and head of BJPs thinktank Balbir Punj too has confirmed the increasing role of Mr Gurumurthy in policy matters.

With the deputy PM and finance minister lending an ear to RSS and SJM, the two organisations are expected to push their ideology on divestment issues for implementation in future.

On the disinvestment agenda, Mr Gurumurthy told FE that they are totally in sync with the concept of divestment. It is only the context on which we have a different viewpoint which we have presented to the government. We are in favour of disinvestment of National Aluminium Co. Why should the government be in the business of selling aluminium. But we want the government to be careful on whom to sell the company so that there is no monopoly creation, he points out.

Further, Mr Gurumurthy says loss-making state-run units should be sold to a strategic partners but the same rule cannot be applied to profit-making companies. Oil sector is strategic and the government should retain a majority stake at least in Indian Oil Corporation, he says.

On the Kelkar committee report, Mr Gurumurthy said the committee has taken the right initiative on direct taxes, but expressed his doubts on the success of a two-rate excise structure and the proposed custom duty structure in a complex system like Indias.

Mr Gurumurthy blasted the protagonists of foreign direct investment and came down heavily on Planning Commission member NK Singhs report on this. This report can be torn to shreds. The projected FDI inflows are based on assumptions and have no concrete basis.

Why do we need foreign investment. Of the entire money invested in India in industry since FDI has opened up, 98 per cent has come from within the country and only 2 per cent from overseas.