M A I N   N E W S

Kejriwal now takes on Mukesh Ambani
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 31
After targeting Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, Congress leader Salman Khurshid and BJP president Nitin Gadkari, activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal today trained his guns at India’s richest man — Mukesh Ambani, chairman and CEO of Reliance Industries.

Armed with documentary “proof”, Kejriwal accused Ambani of subverting government policies to suit his business interests and charged the Congress and BJP of “crony capitalism”.

“Mukesh Ambani is running the country not the Prime Minister. Jaipal Reddy was transferred from Petroleum Ministry to placate Ambani,” Kejriwal said. He demanded that RIL’s KG Basin contract enacted during NDA’s tenure be cancelled and the present government put in place a system to get full production from oil and gas wells at cheapest prices for the country. Reliance Industries rejected charges of receiving favours from government for its KG Basin gas project, saying India Against Corruption’s allegations were at the “behest of vested interests”.

Kejriwal blamed the nexus between politicians and industrialists for the rising prices in the country.

“Both the Congress and BJP are in Ambani’s pockets,” he alleged. With a net worth of $21 billion, Mukesh Ambani is the richest Indian for the fifth year in a row, according to the Forbes India Rich List.

Flanked by trusted aides Manish Sisodia and Prashant Bhushan, Kejriwal wondered whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was succumbing to corporates under compulsion or out of ignorance.

“Surely, being an economist, the PM is not ignorant. So it must be the pressure (from corporates),” he said, as he attributed the transfer of veteran Congress leader Jaipal Reddy from Petroleum to the relatively less-important Science and Technology portfolio to Ambani. To support the involvement of the previous NDA government in providing undue benefits to the RIL, the IAC also played out an audio tape, purportedly of talks between lobbyist Niira Radia and former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee's foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya.

In the tapes, Radia and Bhattacharya can be heard talking about the composition of the Union ministry. Later, Bhattacharya is heard telling Radia that Mukesh Ambani told him that “Congress to ab apni dukan hai (the Congress is now in my pocket)”.

As is now becoming a practice, the IAC event was not without high drama. A man, not a journalist though, stepped in to ask questions regarding Kejriwal and his wife’s extended tenure in Delhi.

Kejriwal alleged that Cabinet ministers were being replaced at Ambani's insistence. For instance, Reddy was replaced by Veerappa Moily as Petroleum Minister since he was unwilling to raise the gas price while in 2006, Murli Deora replaced Mani Shankar Aiyar to increase RIL's capex from $ 2.39 billion to $ 8.8 billion and to increase gas price from $2.34 per mmBTU to $ 4.2 per mmBTU.

Later, an EGoM headed by Pranab Mukherjee revised the gas price in 2007 at RIL's insistence. “Sweet deal on gas contracts signed during NDA regime, implemented by the Congress,” he said.

Whether his allegations are based on facts or mere conjecture, Kejriwal managed to bring into the open the cosy relationship shared between political parties and corporates and highlighting that there needs to be greater transparency in dealings between corporate class and politicians.

For Kejriwal, who has been at the receiving end of allegations that IAC was being funded by corporates, this expose was also important to prove a personal point.

‘Crony capitalism’

Both BJP and Congress involved in KG Basin deals with RIL. BJP signed the deal in 2000, Congress implemented it
In 2006, Mani Shankar Iyer was removed and Murli Deora brought in to increase RIL capex
EGoM headed by Pranab Mukherjee raised gas price in 2007 at RIL's insistence from $ 2.25 per mmBTU to $4.25 per mmBTU
Mukesh wants price increased to $14.25 mmBTU. Reddy disagreed, saying it could cause a loss of `43,000 crore and was shunted out. Veerappa Moily then brought in to do what Mukesh wanted

Reliance Denial

The statements made by the IAC are devoid of any truth or substance whatsoever and are denied. — A Reliance Industries spokesman





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