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April 7, 1997


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Kesri's men blast Manmohan, dump his policies

George Iype in New Delhi

Six years after he boldly launched India's economic reforms, former finance minister Manmohan Singh finds himself isolated in the Congress party.

His chief critics in the party -- Pranab Mukherjee, Naval Kishore Sharma and Ahmed Patel -- are all set to overthrow Dr Singh's policies. They are already evolving a new set of economic reforms, which will be discussed at the All India Congress Committee's 80th plenary session in Calcutta in August.

This became clear at a meeting of the Congress party's economic committee on Tuesday in New Delhi, when Dr Singh was at the receiving end. ''Manmohanomics is flawed and lacked new direction,'' said Mukherjee and Sharma. ''We must draft an investor-friendly policy and prepare for launching it when the Congress comes to power,'' added Mukherjee who heads the committee.

The committee's other members are A K Antony. Sharad Pawar, N D Tiwari, Madhavsinh Solanki, Meira Kumar and Mani Shankar Aiyar. Dr Singh is a member of the committee. The leaders are also in charge of drafting other resolutions for the plenary session.

Though Dr Singh tried his best to defend his policies, Mukherjee and Sharma made it clear that the committee's report cannot be ''old wine in a new bottle''.

''It is time the Congress gave new direction to the economic policy as some of the previous Congress government's economic programmes have failed miserably,'' said Sharma.

Asserting that the criticism is not directed against Dr Singh, Sharma told Rediff On The NeT that he was genuinely concerned about the fiscal policies of the past.

According to him, the hype about foreign investment has been proved wrong. ''We have failed to get the desired foreign investment in crucial areas like power,'' he added. ''Industrial investment in the country have gone down very badly and the government's promise and expectation that nearly 85 per cent of foreign investment would be in the infrastructure sector have been belied. Most of the foreign investments were in the consumer sector.''

Answering his critics, Dr Singh blamed low power generation, badly-managed state electricity boards and unforeseen litigation like the Enron for the fall in foreign investment.

But Congress sources feel Dr Singh's arguments may not be reflected in the economic panel's resolution as it will drafted by Mukherjee, Sharma and Patel who are close to party chief Sitaram Kesri. Patel is convener of the plenary session and Mukherjee convener of all committees involved in drafting resolutions.

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