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June 9, 1998


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Opposition asks Bakht to quit over Maruti deal

Opposition leaders today demanded the resignation of Industry Minister Sikander Bakht, holding him responsible for what they called a corrupt deal entered into with the Japanese auto major Suzuki, which clipped the government's powers in Maruti Udyog Limited.

They added that central trade unions would organise a protest demonstration before Parliament on Thursday, June 11.

Addressing a joint news conference, Opposition leaders S Jaipal Reddy (Janata Dal), Vyalar Ravi (Congress), Gurudas Dasgupta (Communist Party of India) and Mohammed Salim (Communist Party of India-Marxist) said the deal was secretly negotiated by the prime minister's office bypassing the industry ministry.

Reddy said neither the law ministry nor the attorney general were consulted when a case against Suzuki was pending in an international court. "Our case in the court was strong and there was no need to succumb to the pressure of the Japanese company. Moreover, Suzuki accounts for hardly seven per cent share in the automobile market in the world, and 50 per cent of that is made up by the Indian operations," he said.

Reddy described as absurd the contention that the agreement was reached to soften the impact of Japanese sanctions after India went nuclear and said the Japanese government had never intefered in our dealings with Suzuki. Moreover, he alleged that Suzuki is too minor a player to have an impact on the Japanese government's decisions on sanctions.

Dasgupta said the Japanese company, which had invested Rs 1.03 billion in Maruti Udyog, has already reaped benefits to the tune of Rs 3.43 billion by way of dividends, lumpsum royalty, and running royalty."They have sold overrated components to the tune of Rs 42 billion. When the present managing director, R S S L N Bhaskarudu tried to plug the overinvoicing of the Japanese components, Suzuki insisted he should go and its nominee, Jagdish Khattar, should take over," the CPI MP claimed.

The CPI-M condemened the 'sellout" of Maruti Udyog to Suzuki as an example of the Bharatiya Janata Party's spurious swadeshi.

A spokesman recalled that when Suzuki first tried to wrest control of the automobile giant, the United Front government put up stiff resistance and upheld the sovereignty of this country and its economic self-reliance.

"At that time, all political parties including the BJP had openly supported the government's stand," the spoksman, said adding, "now, in the name of swadeshi, Maruti has been handed over to Suzuki on a platter."

Suzuki had earlier acquired 50 per cent of Maruti's equity, but was prevented from enhancing this to 80 per cent, in return for full control of management.

"But now, thanks to the BJP government's policies, Suzuki has been given full control over Maruti built by Indian people's labour, without investing a single yen in the company," the spokesman said.

"The clandestine manner in which such a decision has been pushed through invites suspicion regarding the BJP's motives," the CPI-M spokesman said.

The Maruti controversy


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