The Government and the Left failed to break the deadlock on crucial economic issues at a three-hour meeting of the UPA-Left Coordination Committee at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Race Course Road residence on Wednesday.
The government rejected most of the suggestions the Left parties made in their June 15 note on mobilising resources to fund social sector programmes and refused to accept allegations that it was hurtling towards unrestrained privatisation or financial sector liberalisation.
But it decided to keep on hold disinvestment of profit making public sector units even in the non-strategic sector after it failed to get the Left to agree to allow it to shed equity in some of these companies.
The communists said that these units need to be strengthened and not privatised.
The controversial issues of creation of special economic zones, banking, pensions and insurance sector reforms would be taken up at the next UPA-Left meeting in November, said CPI general secretary AB Bardhan who reluctantly agreed to talk to newspersons while no one from the Government came to brief, reflecting the inability of the two sides to bridge the hiatus in perceptions on various issues.
But Left leaders Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury (both CPM), Bardhan, D Raja (both CPI) and Abani Roy (RSP) insisted that the Government discuss the issue with the trade union leaders.
While the Left will shortly sit together to take stock of the Governemnt's reponse, Wednesday's meeting was also attended by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, Shivraj Patil, P Chidambaram, Prithiraj Chauhan and Congress president’s Political Secretary Ahmed Patel.
If the two sides agreed, it was on introducing the Women’s Reservation Bill in its existing form in the Winter session of Parliament, with Sonia also making a strong pitch for it.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s bid to raise the issue of increasing the number of seats in elected legislatures to address the concerns of those who are opposed to the bill did not find many takers. Neither did his logic to link the bill with the delimitation of constituencies.
Of the dozen points made by the Left in the note to the Government in June, only six were touched upon at the meeting: macroeconomic policies and resource mobilisation, agrarian policies, food security and public distribution system, attitude towards foreign capital, financial sector liberalisation and privatisation. Even these were not discussed in detail.
On resource mobilisation, for instance, Finance Minister P Chidambaram touched on the Left’s concerns on disinvestments, wealth tax, inheritance tax and reintroducing long term capital gains tax but refused to make any concession.