Highlights of the Press briefing Held at 1615 Hours 24.07.2014
Prof. Rajeev Gowda addressed the media today.
Prof. Rajeev Gowda said the Congress party wishes to express its deepest condolences to the families of the young children who have died in accident in Medak in Telangana State today. The Congress President and the Congress Vice President have also condoled this tragedy. We are really hopeful that the government will expedite the process of eliminating level crossing something that we have initiated during our government and prevent these sorts of accidents occurring in future.Second issue, I would like to place before you on behalf of the Congress is the issue of Sania Mirza that has come up today. A BJP leader from Telangana Shri Lakshman has made all kinds of insinuations against Sania Mirza. As you all know sports is an activity and endeavour that unites all Indians. It is an endeavour that makes every Indian proud of the person representing the country, we hope to see the tricolor waiving and we hope to hear the national anthem at the medal ceremony. That is the kind of sentiments that we bring when we see our sport icons on international stage. Sania Mirza is one of those sports icons who has done us proud at the Asian Games, Olympics and various other international tennis tournaments and is someone who also has a deep history of engagement with Telangana in terms of ancestry history and connection with Hyderabad go back more than 100 years and in this context trying to rake up issues which are really besides the point which have to be personal marital choices and nothing to do with loyalty to the country, nothing to do with matters of more importance to the country are raked up. It is just one more instance of divisive behavior, the kind of activity that we should all unanimously deplore. Sania Mirza has herself stated that she is 100% Indian till she dies and that should settle the matter. We hope that these sort of issues will not be raked and turn into needless controversies.
The third issue that I would like to lay before you is the economy. Two days ago in the Rajya Sabha, the part time Finance Minister, part time Defence Minister what should I refer to him as, Mr. Arun Jaitley basically pointed out in response to the question in the first question in Question Hour about the sale of PSUs. He raised the issue of how many PSUs have been revived over the last decade, how many are still loss making and pointed out at that least 4 PSUs will be sold very soon. Now this has to be seen in larger context of disinvestment. If you look at the Budget something that we are discussing in parliament in both Houses as we speak, we have a situation where there is a very-very large disinvestment target. That is the only way we expect unless the economy grows dramatically, the only way that we expect that those deficit numbers will actually be met if we have this very significant disinvestment. Now when you look at disinvestment and the NDA, when you juxtaposed those two phases together, lot of questions arise. The track record of NDA government in previous time in office, we had raised lot of questions and is a matter which left most of us with tremendous and deep dissatisfaction. We had instances where multiple Hotels were sold. There is a philosophy of disinvestment. You can sell shares to the public and make them stakeholders in essentially a government owned and run enterprise or you could sell out the company altogether. During the NDA years, they focused on outright sale and that philosophy may recur again. When an outright sale was done, in most instances, there were lot of questions about under-valuation, there were questions about sweet-heart deal and there were questions about negligence in terms of assets of the companies. If I would raise two or three issues that came up during the previous NDA regime, we have a case of multiple Hotels being sold at the fraction of cost. This issue did come up and was investigated. Those sorts of matters have been raised before but I am just flagging them up again as it is important for all of us to stay extra ordinarily vigilant when the NDA gets into disinvestment mode. The issue of VSNL – there was a case of a company that was sold where the land assets were not hived off and therefore, the valuation of the company itself was not appropriate. There was a case of undersea cable – the VSNL investment not being valued at all and so these are examples of disinvestment programmes that were not done in the spirit that they should have been done and of course there is a CBI probe going on into Sterlite issue. That is about under valuation again. So when we look at this whole issue, Congress party is not against disinvestment as a policy but what we are concerned about and what we would like the media to join us in being vigilant about is the process of disinvestment, the methods that are adopted, the kinds of valuations that are brought forth and therefore, we would urge each and every one of you to join us in staying vigilant and making sure that nothing goes on in terms of the sale of our national assets, national treasure in some cases in a manner that would be detrimental to the interests of India.
To a question on Sania Mirza that IT Minister has refuted the same; Prof. Gowda said I am very happy to hear that because BJP party historically has maintained rhetoric of division. He was a party Spokesperson before, he has a nice turn of phrase but the whole point is that issues like this should not even come up in the first place. So even a party MLA comes up with this as his personal view, even which is something to be deplored.
To a related question that even one Congress MP has raised this issue that Sania Mirza has never spoken about Telengana issue, Prof. Gowda said there are two issues here. One is the BJP’s MLA statement about Sania Mirza. The issue that you are reporting is, I am not aware of the same whether someone has fought for Telanagna. There were numerous people in that fight. She has made the country proud and on that basis the Congress party is happy to say Sania Mirza is someone the entire country is proud. If Hanumantha Rao has said this, we would disassociate ourselves. We would say just that that must be his personal views.
Coming back to the disinvestment question as to what route the NDA government will adopt, Prof. Gowda added that he is not sure exactly, it is not laid down yet how they are going about meeting the disinvestment target. I am just pointing out that many of the same people are still in the BJP in the Cabinet etc. and may be the same philosophy will be in place. If the same approach is what we see in action, then we may end up with those kinds of under valuations, all kinds of developments which are not what is appropriate for India at this juncture. Congress party is not against disinvestment. We are only urging tremendous scrutiny, tremendous vigilance to make sure that Indian assets do not get sold at an under valuation.
On the question of the reaction of the Congress party over the statement of BJP MP on Finance Bill, Prof. Gowda said I think there is promise on the part of the current government to bring back huge-huge amounts of black money within very-very short period time I wish him a long life so that he can actually stay and realize the fruits of the BJPs promises when they bring the money back whatever is there out.
To another question on the situation in Assam that two Congress Ministers have been expelled by the party and the resignation of Hemant Biswa Sarma has been accepted, Prof. Gowda said the General Secretary In-charge will handle the issue politically. These are political developments. These are internal dynamics – one group Vs the other etc. and this is all part of the give and take in politics. the High Command will resolve the issue in the manner that will benefit the party.