Under fire from Left allies on the disinvestment of NALCO, government on Saturday hinted at reviewing the decision and said a "discussion" was on over the issue.
Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh said there was a proposal that the Rs 1400 crore, which the UPA government wanted to get through the 10 per cent disinvestment in NALCO for social sector spending, could be got from the company's reserve fund.
"Or NALCO could be asked to raise its dividend payoff to the government," Ramesh told reporters here, adding the proposals would be reviewed in a pragmatic manner.
"The intention of the UPA government was not privatisation .... In NALCO's case we have to be sensitive. We have to allay the fears that disinvestment will lead to privatisation," he said.
Disinvestment could be done selectively, he said and added, "You need not have 100 per cent equity in a company to keep it as a government company.
"My view is that the government should identify 20 or 30 PSUs, which cannot be privatised without the Parlaiment's approval. We can enact a law for this. But there can be disinvestment in these companies if required," he said.
NALCO Co-ordination Committee (NCC), an umbrella body of employees, on Saturday sought intervention of the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in the issue.
The company has reserves of Rs 4,500 crore and zero debt and selling the company's stake will be nothing but donating public money to private owners, NCC convenor BC Roy said in the letter to Sonia.
Ramesh criticised the ruling BJD-BJP coalition in Orissa for indulging in 'double standards' on the NALCO disinvestment issue.
It was the Chief Minister and BJD President Naveen Patnaik, who as the Mines Minister had proposed 30 per cent disinvestment in NALCO, he said.
When the NDA came to power at the Centre it favoured total privatisation of the company with the then Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie proposing 60 per cent disinvestment in NALCO, Ramesh said, adding now both the BJD and BJP were opposing the 10 per cent disinvestment proposed by the UPA government.
"The two parties (BJD and BJP) are being totally hypocritical and dishonest," he said.
On his own party's stand over theissue, he said the state Congress party had maintained a consistent stand opposing disinvestment in the profit-making company from the beginning even though there might have been partymen in Delhi who favoured it.
"If there is any difference in the Congress on NALCO, I will prefer to call it as
difference of opinion," he said.
Major political parties, including BJD and BJP and seven central trade unions - CITU, AICCTU, AITUC, INTUC, BMS, HMS, UTUC(LS) protested against the disinvestment decision and called a strike across Orissa on Friday. All NALCO employees had joined in the strike, which hit its production.