Social activist Medha Patkar has accused the UPA government of reeling under corporate pressure for its decision to shift Jaipal Reddy from the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry.

Ms. Patkar alleged the decision was taken to provide undue benefits to the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd.

“Mr. Reddy has been removed because he questioned the irrational demand by RIL on escalating the prices of natural gas. A few years ago, the government replaced Mani Shankar Aiyar with Murli Deora, a childhood friend of the Ambanis, for similar reasons,” Ms. Patkar told The Hindu.

“The National Alliance of People’s Movements [NAPM] condemns this development as an evidence of the politician-corporate nexus and a joint crime against the people of India.”

As Petroleum Minister, Mr. Reddy had prevented RIL’s efforts to increase the price of natural gas extracted from the Krishna Godavari basin off the coast of Andhra Pradesh.

The Minister is also said to have been instrumental in bringing RIL under the scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

The NAPM would work out a strategy to counter the government’s action, at its ninth biennial national convention, to be held from November 17 to 19 at Kiraloor village near Thrissur, Kerala, she said.

She said RIL was insisting on hiking the price of natural gas, despite its agreement with the Union government to keep it steady till 2014. She also accused the company of deliberately showing reduced production from its KG D6 gas block in order to extract a higher price.

“Though the loss that would accrue to the exchequer because of the price hike would be $ 6.3 billion, it could increase much beyond this figure due to the RIL’s huge spread in the country,” she said.