BJP hits back at UPA on VSNL disinvestment

New Delhi: The BJP on Thursday tried to turn the tables on the UPA saying it will have to conduct an inquiry into its own conduct on the issue of delay in hiving off the VSNL and return of 773 acres land to the Government.

"One of the ministers is trying to put the NDA in the dock on the VSNL (Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited) demerger issue but the inquiry will be in the Government`s own deeds as it will have to explain what was being done by P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee (past and present Finance Ministers) in the last six years," Prakash Javadekar said in Rajya Sabha.

He was participating in the debate on the Finance Bill, 2011.

Raising concerns over the disinvestment of VSNL in 2002, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal had recently said, "It has come to my notice that the disinvestment of VSNL in 2002 does not seem to be fair and transparent" and ordered an inquiry into the deal.

The VSNL disinvestment was done in 2002 during the NDA regime.

In response to the minister`s allegations, former Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie, under whom VSNL was sold to Tatas, had also said that if there was any delay in the demerger of the land, a probe should be ordered against the past and present Finance Ministers in the UPA government.

The issue was also raised earlier by V Hanumantha Rao (Cong), who cited media reports to pinpoint alleged irregularities in disinvestment of VSNL to the Tatas during Shourie`s tenure as Disinvestment Minister in the then NDA government.

"This is a fit case for investigation by CBI," he said triggering protests from BJP members.

Attacking the Government, Javadekar said the Finance Minister had presented a budget which was "lackadaisical and uninspiring" and didn`t have much to offer to the poor and unemployed youth.

Taking part in the debate, T Subbarami Reddy (Cong) said the Government had not announced any populist scheme despite the fact that elections were being held in five states.

On the Polavarm power and irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh, he said it was a national project and wondered as to why the government was not coming forward to get the project completed. .

Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) charged the government with giving tax relief to the affluent in the Budget and transferring the burden to common man.

"Burden of Indirect Tax is too high. It is 43 per cent of the total tax," Sen said adding that this was in a scenario where 84 crore people were forced to live in sub-human conditions.

He also opposed any step to de-regularise petroleum prices citing its shooting prices and volatility in the Middle East.

"Don`t leave the prices on market forces under such situation," he said, demanding roll back of the service tax levied on air travel in the Budget.

Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U) alleged that the UPA was siding with the elite class while framing policies and claimed that the number of billionaires has increased to 36 from nine during its regime.

Yogendra Trivedi (NCP) said the Finance Bill is clueless about scourge of black money which is the main cause of inflation and price rise.

R C Singh (CPI) said there was no provision for proper storage of bumper crops expected this year.

Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) demanded a ban of forward trading to check price rise.

Lauding increase in remuneration for Anganbari workers, Ramdas Agarwal (BJP) demanded that the age limit for senior citizen criteria for availing Income Tax benefit should be lowered to 70 years from 80 years if the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee really wanted to benefit them.

He demanded rationalisation of tax structure saying that average people had to pay a wide range of taxes from Income Tax and Service Tax to water and education taxes.

Rajniti Prasad (RJD) said the Budget failed to provide any relief to the masses.