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PMO trashes CPM jibe on RIL mediation
July, 16th 2008

The CPM on Tuesday took direct aim at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying he was setting a dangerous precedent by mediating between the feuding Ambani brothers.

The Prime Ministers office (PMO) should not become the conciliation office for warring corporates, however desperate the ruling party may be to retain power, the CPM politburo said in a statement.

In response, the PMO denied that the PM was involved in any mediation effort. People of India know Manmohan Singh better than to believe that he would get involved in corporate affairs, said media advisor to the PM Sanjaya Baru.

On the meeting with Mr Mukesh Ambani, he said the prime minister meets corporate leaders all the time to discuss national economic issues as any leader of a modern economy would.

The CPMs attack came in the backdrop of attempts by friendly quarters to take the corporate rivalry to the level of national politics. The issues raised by the two sides have been figuring in discussions at the top level ever since the Samajwadi Party entered into a political deal with the Congress. The Prime Ministers Office has been claiming the authorship for the alliance with the Samajwadi Party.

The CPM used the meeting that Mr Mukesh Ambani had with the prime minister and senior officials of the government to drive home its point that corporate houses are openly in the fray to lobby their interests in the run-up to the confidence vote.

In the meetings, Mr Ambani had placed on record his opposition to the demands that are being raised by Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh.

The prime minister and the senior Ambani discussed specific issues such as the imposition of windfall profit tax raised by Amar Singh in his letters to the prime minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. In his letters, the SP leader had alleged that oil minister Murli Deora was favouring a well-known private operator.

Incidentally, Amar Singh repeated this charge at a press conference here on Tuesday. Mr Singh said the government should immediately levy a windfall profit tax on both upstream and downstream operators.

Against a projected under recovery of over Rs 225,000 crore, a levy of windfall tax could instantly generate over Rs 100,000 crore, he said.

Amar Singh has also been asking the government to weigh in for Anil Ambani in the MTN deal. The feud between the two brothers escalated last month after Anil stepped in with a $60-billion offer for South Africas MTN.

The Mukesh Ambani group, which handed over RCOM to the younger brother on a truce worked out by their mother, has been opposing the deal on the ground that under the family settlement arrived at in 2005, if there is any sale of majority stake in any company, his group has the right of first refusal. But ADAG claims that there was no such clause in the family settlement.

 
 
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