AB Vajpayee: A PM whose biggest legacy is in the form of policy reforms

Aug 16, 2018, 20:00 PM IST
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Former PM AB Vajpayee passed away today in Delhi. He was a statesman and was much loved by his supporters and respected even by his rivals. However, what is most noteworthy is the fact that he turned himself into one of the foremost reformist PMs in the country. 
 

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Vajpayee built India's most famous highway project, started privatisation to cut government's role in running businesses and made big-ticket overseas acquisitions to secure energy supplies. Image source: PTI 

 

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He was often referred to as the father of second generation economic reforms in India. He pursued his reforms agenda with vigour without getting ruffled by criticism. Image source: PTI

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His idea was simple, but had immense potential to build a new India. The idea was to construct arterial roads that could spur development just like what was witnessed in the US. In 2001 Vajpayee launched the Golden Quadrilateral and the North-South & East-West Corridor projects to build 4/6 lane highways between four top metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata as well as from Srinagar to Kanyakumari and Porbandar to Silchar. Image source: PTI

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Arguably the biggest reform of his tenure as PM was the privatisation drive. For the first time ever, a Department of Disinvestment to process privatisation candidates was created and a Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment formed to accord expeditious approvals. Image source: PTI

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This saw 32 state-owned companies and hotels being sold to private firms in five years. Beginning with sale of Modern Food Industries to Hindustan Unilever (HUL) in 1999-2000, his government went on to sell Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd (Balco) and Hindustan Zinc Ltd to mining baron Anil Agarwal's Sterlite Industries, IT firm CMC Ltd and Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) to Tatas, fuel retailer IBP Ltd to Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and Indian Petrochemicals Corp Ltd (IPCL) to Reliance Industries Ltd. Image source: PTI

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A number of hotels including Kovalam Ashok Beach Resort, Hotel Airport Ashok in Kolkata and three hotels in New Delhi - Ranjit Hotel, Qutab Hotel and Hotel Kanishka too were sold. Image source: IANS

 

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The privatisation drive was bitterly opposed, especially the decision to privatise Balco, which was challenged right up to the Supreme Court, which upheld the move. Image source: IANS

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However, he failed in privatising oil refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) with his own cabinet colleagues opposing the move. Image source: PTI

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His government made a diplomatic push to acquire a 20 per cent stake in the gigantic Sakhalin-I oil and gas fields in far east Russia for USD 1.7 billion in 2001. This was India's single largest investment abroad. This was followed up with a 25 per cent stake in an oilfield in Sudan for USD 720 million. His model of energy security by investing in overseas projects has since then been followed vigorously with footprint now expanded to 20 countries and energy diplomacy part of India's engagements with other countries. Image source: IANS

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