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'PM-Mukesh meet a dangerous precedent'

business Updated: Jul 16, 2008 01:02 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times
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A day after Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi, the CPM slammed the meeting saying it had set a dangerous precedent.

The Left party added that the prime minister should “stay clear from corporate wars” — in this case, between the Ambani brothers.

Within hours of the CPM statement, the Prime Minister’s Office reacted by saying that Singh meets corporate leaders routinely and the people of India know better than to suspect the PM.

SP general secretary Amar Singh too jumped into the spat, saying the Left party has adopted double standards. “For Tata’s small car, they cause Singur and Nandigram,” he said. “When Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee or Jyoti Basu meets a big corporate leader, they say it is about industrialisation and benefit of West Bengal. But when the PM meets a businessman they have a different take.”

Referring to the meeting between the PM and Mukesh Ambani, the CPM politburo issued a strongly worded statement, saying: “The corporate houses are openly in the fray to lobby their interests in the run-up to the confidence vote. A dangerous precedent has been set with the PM being asked to personally intervene to mediate between the two Ambani brothers.”

It suggested the meeting was an outcome of the Congress’s desperation to save the government and please its newest ally, the SP.

While political circles are abuzz with the meeting happening at the SP leader’s behest, Amar Singh had also demanded from the government that it impose a windfall profits tax on private oil refining companies. The tax will, among others, affect Reliance. “I am only following the Left’s footsteps in making the demand,” he said.

Reacting to CPM’s charge, PM’s media advisor Sanjaya Baru said: “People of India know Manmohan Singh better to believe that he would get involved in corporate affairs.”

Baru said the PM meets corporate leaders routinely "to discuss national economic issues as any leader of modern economy would".

A CPM leader reacted to Amar Singh's remarks. "We are not averse to the PM meeting corporate leaders for industrialisation or any other matter but the PMO should not be turned into an arbitration office, that is all we are saying," he said.

The last time the PMO and the Left sparred in public view was during the budget session of Parliament. After Left leaders met the PM and made a string of demands to contain price rise, the PMO issued a statement advising political parties to "eschew the temptation to politicise people's misery". It sparked off a war of words.

At that time, the Left was still extending outside support to the government and the Communists and SP were cosying up, collectively criticising the government on price rise and moving towards providing a non-Congress, non-BJP third alternative to the people.