Politics, Kashmir, Track Two Keep PM Away From The Economy

New Delhi, June 12: | Updated: Jun 13 2002, 05:30am hrs
Late Tuesday evening, it dawned on the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) that theres too much stacked up against the PMs back to business meeting on sectoral reforms with India Inc on Wednesday.

For one, there were briefings to be done for a meeting with visiting US defence secretary Don Rumsfeld, and a plan finalised on what messages to send to Washington on Kashmir after the sudden de-escalation along the line of control. Then, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa had sought the Prime Ministers time to discuss matters ranging from New Delhis handling of Sri Lanka to elections to the Rashtrapati Bhavan in July. This wasnt all. As a senior industry association official said, the number of RSVP confirmations was much too meagre, also many members are, including guys from the government, are in the US either on track two work (unofficial diplomatic missions) or roadshows.

Asked for comment, a PMO aide confirmed all these odds, besides adding cryptically that there was, or there might have been, important file work, on which I am not authorised to comment on.

Result For the second time this year, messages were sent out to the members and the meeting cancelled. The new set of dates, affixed for now, are July 10 for the trade and industry council (comprising captains of Indian Industry), and July 13 for the meeting with the economic advisory council (comprising economists).

The last time these apex bodiesconstituted amidst some hype in 1998to provide Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with counsel from some of the more outstanding business and economics talent in the country met was way back in September last. The agenda then was fiscal stimulus. The next meeting was scheduled in February, but it had to be cancelled because Mr Vajpayee was pre-occupied with state elections and overseas travel. So, by convening these councils after a gap of more than eight months, the PMO was hoping to send out the business as usual message, more so on account of the fact that the PM would be spending nearly half of two working days on nitty gritty issues concerning the nuts and bolts of power and petroleum reforms.

So, how disappointing is the cancellation Surprisingly not too much! If you ask senior functionaries in CII (president Ashok Soota and director general Tarun Das are travelling) the sense is one of optimism. We have found that this government has squeezed through more reform legislation than previous governments, but none of that has been packaged at one place, said a senior CII official, informing that this list is being put together now. (At FICCI, both president RS Lodha and secretary Amit Mitra were overseas and it wasnt possible to discuss the sentiment.)