Public sector unit (PSU) Oil India Ltd’s announcement of an initial public offering in September is a welcome sign that the government isn’t treating disinvestment like the untouchable it became last term. But that doesn’t mean privatization is on the top of the government’s priorities.
So far, the only other noise about privatization has been civil aviation minister Praful Patel’s suggestion that the national air carrier, too, may sell some stake. Public enterprises minister Vilasrao Deshmukh says no decision has been made. In fact, Oil India’s disinvestment is nothing new; it was to take place last year. Privatization efforts for other oil PSUs have anyway been ruled out.
Considering that the Congress manifesto noted it wouldn’t divest stake in manufacturing PSUs, we find it hard to expect too much. For a party that claims to stand for the aam aadmi, antagonizing worker unions is hardly smart politics. What’s more, given that the Congress has been in power most of India’s independent years, unwinding its deep wells of patronage won’t be easy.