The Narendra Modi government’s attempt to boost its revenue collection through the disinvestment route has run into the RSS hurdle. At a time when in the first seven months, the fiscal deficit stands at 102 per cent of the annual target, the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), a key RSS affiliate, has said that strategic disinvestment is not in national interest. It said this at its conclave in Haridwar, Uttarakhand.
Speaking to India Today TV, Ashwini Mahajan, national conveyor of SJM, said, “Strategic disinvestment of Public Sector Units (PSUs) is not only an imprudent business decision, but is also against the national interest. It denies the people of India — the real owners of PSUs — the fair value of assets and capital investments bringing in unfair advantage for those who intend to buy.”
The SJM passed a resolution against the government’s move saying, “The government has no business to be in business, but it should resist the plan to handover the national assets to corporate houses of multinational corporations (MNCs) at throw away prices.”
The SJM’s criticism will arm the Opposition parties which have been calling the disinvestment drive as a sweetheart deal being offered to private players by the government.
The SJM said, “The present plan of disinvestments is the result of certain bureaucrats in cahoots with some consultants and business houses. It is time to resist these influences and safeguard the national assets. The government must look into the allegations of conflict of interests and conspiracy to capture Indian assets.”
The SJM wants the Modi government to junk the Niti Aayog report on PSUs as “it is the handwork of a few consultants (who continue to work on game plan of vested interests) and should be kept away”.
In 2018, the government had to cap its Air India disinvestment plan due to SJM’s opposition. Recently, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had indicated that the government plans to mop up Rs 1 lakh crore by selling their equities in five PSUs in this fiscal.
Sources said that to battle falling revenue assessment exercise for disinvesting 28 PSUs is currently on.
Recently, the cabinet committee on economic affairs or CCEA had approved the strategic disinvestment of its entire stake in Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) and sale of the government’s 63.75 per cent and 30.8 per cent stake in SCI and Concor, respectively, along with management control, to a strategic buyer.
While the government is all set to revive its plans to offload Air India, the SJM is set to oppose the move.
The SJM said, “Air India requires restructuring and professional management, not disinvestment. This is not an emotional position, but a pure business requirement. The restructuring of Air India’s debts and assets can not only reduce the liabilities for the company but also spin the national carrier back into profits. Its losses are because of the servicing of the debt. This debt is taken because of the bad decision making (with malafide intentions). It’s really painful and unfair to call Air India a bad asset.”
On BPCL disinvestment, SJM said, “The second largest PSU oil marketing company has been regularly reporting profits. The gross refining margins of their refineries are matching the best in the global markets. What benefit a strategic investment will bring?”