New Delhi: After Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, Union Minister Salman Khurshid and BJP president Nitin Gadkari, IAC activist Arvind Kejriwal-led-India Against Corruption (IAC) has now trained its guns at country’s top corporate giant Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) led by Mukesh Ambani.
Citing an audio CD believed to be containing talks between corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya, Kejriwal alleged that Mukesh Ambani, RIL chairman, once had said that Congress was in his pocket.
Team Kejriwal on Wednesday launched a scathing attack at erstwhile NDA government as well as the UPA government for protecting the business interests of corporate giants, especially Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited (RIL).
Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan directly attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accusing him of misusing his respectable post and stature to safeguard the business interests of RIL by allocating contract on gas exploration in KG Basin. They also added that favouring RIL in this mater caused heavy loss to the exchequer.
Calling it a "classic case of crony capitalism", activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan alleged that Reliance was "blackmailing" the government to increase the price of gas by "almost stopping" the production and indulging in "hoarding like petty traders".
Alleging a politician-corporate nexus in the country, Team Kejriwal said that both the UPA and previous NDA governments functioned at the behest of Mukesh Ambani.
“It seems that our country and the government are working as per the diktats of Mukesh Ambani. Both the Congress and BJP are in the pockets of Mukesh Ambani,” said Kejriwal.
Taking on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over this issue, Kejriwal asked, “Our country is running at the behest of Ambani and not at PM Manmohan Singh’s. Why does the Congress’ heart beat for Reliance and not for the people of the country?”
|What is KG-D6 Block?|
Krishna-Godavari Basin (KG Basin) is spread across more than 50,000 square kilometers in the Krishna and Godavari river basins in Andhra Pradesh.
In 2002, Reliance Industries discovered the biggest natural gas reserves here. This site was named as D6 block.
On September 8, 2011, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report to the Parliament, has raised objection over the undue favour to RIL by the government while allocating it the KG-D6 contract.
The CAG report alleged following irregularities by the RIL:
• Competition was eliminated by the RIL to safeguard its interests
|KG Basin-RIL controversy|
In 2000, RIL and Niko Resources won the contract for exploration on KG-D6 basin under the new Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP).
As per the contract, the company was supposed to return the government the one-fourth part of the area where exploration was not being carried.
But the RIL, instead of returning the one-fourth part of D6 block, started imposing pressure on the government to name the entire D6 Block as the discovery area of Reliance Industries.
In Mani Shankar Aiyar’s stint as Petroleum Minister, the ministry denied the plea of RIL. But soon after Murli Deora took over as the Petroleum Minister, RIL’s plea was approved and the entire 7645 sq km of KG D6 gas- field was named as the discovery field of Reliance industries.
‘Ambani influenced ministerial appointments’
Kejriwal said that Ambani was interfering with ministerial appointments.
Jaipal Reddy was replaced with Veerappa Moily as oil minister to allow RIL to increase gas prices, the IAC activist said.
Attacking the decision to shift S Jaipal Reddy from Petroleum Ministry, IAC alleged that it was now "crystal clear" that he was eased out of the crucial ministry only on account of "pressure" from Reliance Industries.
Kejriwal also alleged that Reddy was "honest" and his "ouster" was only because he "actively resisted" Reliance' demand for an increase in the price of gas and wanted to penalise the company for "wilful reduction" of production of gas.
He asked why did Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not seek the opinion of the Attorney General when the then Petroleum Minister Manishankar Aiyar "refused to give in" to Reliance' demand for increasing the price of gas from USD 2.34 per unit to USD 4.2 per unit in 2006.
"In 2006, Aiyar was removed and Murli Deora was brought in who cleared the files within one and half months. Why does he seek the opinion of Attorney General now? Why does his heart beats only for Reliance?" Kejriwal asked.
Former Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar however denied IAC allegations saying no proposal for raising gas price ever came before him.
RIL denies allegations by IAC
Reliance Industries rejected charges of receiving favours from government for its KG-D6 gas project, saying allegations by India Against Corruption (IAC) were at the "behest of vested interests".
"The statements made by IAC... are devoid of any truth or substance whatsoever and are denied," the company said in a statement.
KG-D6 fields, India's first deep-sea project that was developed in a record six-years time, "has added great economic value to the country and by all accounts is a project of which India can be justly proud", RIL said.
"The deep-water exploration project in the KG-D6 basin has deployed the best technical resources and has been recognised by the oil and gas industry as one of the very best in its class," it said.
"Irresponsible allegations made by IAC at the behest of vested interests without basic understanding of the complexities of a project of this nature do not merit a response," it added.
CBI probe goes directionless in KG basin issue
Three years have passed since the controversy involving Reliance Industries Limited and Krishna Godavari Basin have surfaced, but the country’s top most investigating agency, CBI, has still not filed any complaint against Ambani’s firm.
In May this year, the CBI has sought Attorney General's opinion on registering a case in the alleged artificial cost inflation by Reliance Industries for the development of eastern offshore KG-D6 fields.
Sources said that the CBI has completed its probe into the alleged conspiracy in allowing Reliance to raise cost of developing the KG-D6 basin.
The probing agency had registered a preliminary enquiry into the case in 2009.
As per the sources, some senior officials in the CBI want to register complaint against RIL and VK Sibal, Directorate-General of Hydrocarbons (DGH), and other officials who have concluded the alleged conspiracy in raising the cost but special director-level officials in the CBI doesnot intend to file any FIR against Ambani’s RIL.
Notably, Sibal had given RIL approvals for raising the cost on gas reserves as well as cost of services.