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It’s economics, not politics, says SP

The Samajwadi Party’s support to the Congress-led UPA government will come at a price, reports Srinand Jha.
Hindustan Times | By Srinand Jha, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 06, 2008 12:40 AM IST

The Samajwadi Party’s support to the Congress-led UPA government will come at a price. “The pattern of our support to the government will depend on the government’s response to our economic grievances,” said SP leader Amar Singh. “It can be issue-based support or outside support.”

In two letters to the Prime Minister, Singh has demanded imposing windfall profit tax on domestic oil companies and increase in spectrum usage charges of GSM mobile operators.

In one letter, he wrote: “While the Petroleum Minister continues to favour only one well-known private operator, the country is reeling under the spectre of unaffordable petrol, diesel and cooking gas prices”, and demanded a ban on exporting petroleum products.

In the second letter, Singh protested the government’s “lenient view” in increasing spectrum usage charges “at the behest of some of the incumbent GSM operators like Airtel and Vodafone”.

Though both sets of demands have implications for a tussle between Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Singh said “this is merely incidental”. “We are asking neither for money nor Cabinet berths. Our demands are about emergency economic measures to tackle inflation that affects the common man”.

He said these measures will bring down inflation by 4 per cent and increase government revenue. “These are areas of concern for us and the government can positively respond by setting up a Group of Ministers or an experts’ group to look into them.”

At the scheduled July 8 meeting of its parliamentary party, the SP will form the outline of the nature of support to be extended to the government. Stung by charges of “opportunism”, Singh sought to expose the double standards of UNPA partners.

“Chandrababu Naidu (TDP), Om Prakash Chauthala (INLD) and Brindaban Goswami (AGP) all voted in favour of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s candidature for presidency — that was not opportunism,” he asked. Singh further said Naidu was in the Third Front when he did a U-turn by having Balayogi installed as the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Singh said the Third Front had started to dismantle from the moment the Left parties decided to provide outside support to the UPA government.

“The nation and a secular ideology are more important than any Front,” Singh said, adding: “Fronts will come and go, but putting up a strong resistance to the march of communal forces is more important”.

SP will not pitch for the Speaker’s post — should it fall vacant.

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