Shourie Attacks Sena, Uma

New Delhi, October 19: | Updated: Oct 20 2002, 05:30am hrs
Lashing out at the opponents of privatisation, disinvestment minister Arun Shourie said here on Saturday that in the present atmosphere it would not be possible to meet the Rs 12,000-crore divestment target of this fiscal.

Mr Shourie took strong exception to the anti-privatisation statements of coal & mines minister Uma Bharti and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. He mentioned FE report in which Ms Bharti is quoted as saying that those who are trivialising my fight on Nalco (National Aluminium Company) will bite the dust.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee clarified the governments position on the Nalco issue to Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday, Mr Shourie said. Does it mean that the PM will bite the dust, he asked.

He was speaking at the sidelines of a function that was held on the South Campus of the University of Delhi. The minister had gone there to inaugurate a mens hostel.

An unusually belligerent Mr Shourie took the Shiv Sena head on, obliquely suggesting that they had been seeking favours from him in the sale of public sector undertakings (PSUs).

Accusing the Shiv Sena of seeking favour for hotelier Ajit Kerkar for acquisition of Centaur Juhu Hotel in Mumbai, Mr Shourie said that the ally had approached him repeatedly when Mr Kerkar was unable to pay for the hotel and the government did not encash the bank guarantee.

Ask them [Shiv Sena] who rang me up four times to plead the case of Mr Kerkar, the minister said.

On the sale of the Mumbai-based Centaur Airport Hotel by Batra Hospitalities to the Sahara group, he said that since it was an outright sale of the hotel, the new buyer could sell it as he wished. There was no lock-in period. Batra had paid Rs 83 crore to buy the property and in selling it to Sahara, it made a profit of Rs 32 crore. Sources in Airports Authority of India (AAI) said that no official communication regarding the sale has been received so far.

We will examine the terms and other issues regarding the sale once we get the papers, an AAI official said.

The disinvestment minister lambasted those who seek review of disinvestment policy, saying that even after one and a half months after the September 7 meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment nobody has come to his ministry with specific issues related to the policy.

It was only heavy industries minister Balasaheb Vikhe Patil who wrote a letter to the ministry of disinvestment. We have replied to the letter, point by point, Mr Shourie said.

He said that Nalco could meet the fate of Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL). Like Nalco, SAIL was also a profit-making company at one point of time. But then it became sick and the government had to pump Rs 10,000 crore into it. He warned that Nalco would start incurring losses if its privatisation was delayed.

On Ms Bhartis accusation that the administrative ministries are not consulted in the privatisation process, Mr Shourie said that at every stage representatives of the administrative ministries are involved. Whether it is the inter ministerial group, the core group of secretaries on disinvestment or the Cabinet committee on disinvestment, there is always a representative from the administrative ministry.

On the issue of valuation of PSUs, Mr Shourie cited the Supreme Court judgement in the Balco case, saying that valuation is the price which the buyer was willing to pay.