The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has said the shifting of Jaipal Reddy from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas was a fallout of pressure exerted by the biggest corporate in India.
Any step to provide undue benefit to Reliance India Limited (RIL) at the expense of people’s interest cannot be accepted, CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat said in a statement here on Thursday.
Mr. Karat said the new Minister for Petroleum had gone on record that quick decisions would be taken to provide energy security. This indicated that already moves were on to concede RIL’s demands, he added.
Separately, in an editorial in the latest edition of People’s Democracy, the CPI (M) said the real purpose of the Cabinet reshuffle was to make sure that the Prime Minister’s neo-liberal agenda would get implemented in the remaining tenure of the government.
It said the removal of Jaipal Reddy was the most significant indicator of this agenda. The Krishna-Godavari gas block, contracted to RIL, had a ‘pathetic record’ of ‘gold plating’ costs, ‘extorting’ higher prices and earning windfall profits with the ‘connivance’ of the government, the editorial said.
According to it, in recent months RIL had been demanding immediate increase in the price of natural gas, even though a revision was due only in April 2014. The Petroleum Minister had refused to yield to this demand, despite pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, the editorial said.
It said the Krishna-Godavari basin gas issue had been raised many times by party MPs in Parliament, and in letters to the Minister for Petroleum and the Prime Minister during the past five years.
The ‘gold plating’ to artificially increase the costs, increase the price of gas to $4.12 per unit in favour of RIL, and the ‘disreputable’ role of the then Director General of Hydrocarbons were all raised. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the production-sharing contract with RIL vindicated the stand taken by the CPI(M) since 2006, and revealed the ‘nexus’ between the UPA government and Reliance Industries, the editorial said.
It alleged that with the reshuffle, the process of giving key economic ministries to people committed to corporate interests and the neo-liberal policies that the Prime Minister was bent upon pursuing had been completed. The “animal spirits” that Manmohan Singh wanted to unleash ‘got a boost’ with the appointment of P. Chidambaram as Finance Minister, after the post fell vacant when Pranab Mukherjee became the President. With Anand Sharma in the Commerce Ministry, Kapil Sibal in Communications, Praful Patel in Heavy Industries, and Pallam Raju in HRD and Jyotiraditya Scindia as Power MoS (independent charge), the circle was complete. All of them represent corporate interests, the editorial charged.
It said the reshuffle also showed the ‘disdain’ shown by the Congress to the charges of corruption and suspect dealings of its Ministers. Salman Khurshid had been given the important portfolio of External Affairs when an investigation was being conducted by the UP government into charges of unfair practices by a trust he is heading.
Shashi Tharoor had to resign from the Ministry in 2010, when he got involved in the business transactions of the IPL Kochi team, and negotiated a “sweat equity” deal for his then fiancée.
‘Assault on livelihood’
More concessions to big corporates and foreign capital, more assaults on the livelihood of the people, and more corrupt deals were in the offing, the editorial warned. The people of the country would have no option but to ensure the exit of this government in the next Lok Sabha elections, the editorial added.