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|October 16, 1999||
PM says it's time for hard decisions
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government today urged the members of the BJP parliamentary party to apprise the people of his government's important policy decisions.
Addressing the parliamentary party meeting here this morning, Vajpayee also said his government would fulfil all promises made to the electorate. In this context, he exhorted the parliamentary party members to leave no stone unturned to explain the government's achievements and performance to the people.
Vajpayee also pointed out that the electoral promises to the people included a proposed legislation outlawing Indian nationals of foreign origin from contesting for top posts like that of the president and the prime minister. He said the government would take decisions on important policy matters only in the winter session since there was little time before the current session got over.
BJP spokesman Venkaiah Naidu said Vajpayee had said that the people had given the National Democratic Alliance a clear mandate and this had to be respected. Vajpayee referred to the NDA's earlier promise to reorganise states mentioned in the national agenda of governance.
Referring to the diesel price hike, he said the way for it had been paved by the earlier United Front government. It was unavoidable in view of the country's oil pool deficit, he said. He urged his party members to understand the rationale behind the government's policy decisions and communicate them to the people.
Union Home Minister L K Advani urged party MPs to be present in full strength to ensure passage of certain legislations in the Parliament. Referring to discipline within the BJP, Advani said party MPs should conduct themselves in a manner that should be an example to the others.
The home minister told party members to remain alert against political moves aimed at subverting the Vajpayee government. This perhaps hints at efforts by Janata Dal (United) leaders like Sharad Yadav to get Ramakrishna Hegde included in the government. But Naidu claimed he was unaware of any such move.
Advani also cautioned party MPs against misusing facilities given to them (like government accommodation), stressing that the electorate's faith in the BJP should be fully justified by the party MPs, since they were the custodian of the people's rights.
The minister of petroleum and natural gas, according to the BJP spokesman, had explained why the government had to raise diesel prices. He referred to the fact that while diesel prices in the country had been reduced six times, it had been raised only three times. Naik pointed out that international prices of crude oil had risen sharply in recent months and there was no way the government could have avoided the price hike.
The BJP spokesman refused to "speculate" on whether further 'belt-tightening' lay ahead. But Naidu referred to the prime minister's statement that more hard decisions lay ahead.
Significantly, the government yesterday cleared the cabinet note for the introduction of the Insurance Regulatory Authority bill. The bill was passed without discussion at the cabinet meeting with even new ministers expressing complete faith in the bill.
The note caps foreign investment at 26 per cent, thereby signalling the opening up of the insurance sector. It is learnt that the government will plead with the Lok Sabha speaker to do away with the reference to the standing committee on the ground that it had their sanction of the previous house panel.
By deciding to table the IRA bill, the Vajpayee government has sought to strengthen its pro-reform credentials among domestic and foreign investors and to underline its priority agenda. Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha drew the attention of his cabinet colleagues to the difficult financial situation this year and emphasised the need for strict expenditure control measures.
He said the government had no soft options and it might have to cut subsidies on foodgrains, sugar, kerosene, cooking gas and fertilisers, and close unviable public sector units.
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