Sunday, July 19, 2009


A deeply divided Cabinet is upset with the shenanigans of the Murli Deora controlled Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry, also known as Mukesh Ambani's B Team in the capital.With the stakes extremely high in ther battle over gas, no stone is being left unturned by Mukesh Ambani and Murli Deora. But this has left senior ruling party politicians fuming for the blatant disregard of the rule of law to ensure that Mukesh Ambani gets his right of way. Forget younger brother Anil Ambani who is fighting him for the gas, Public Sector power utility NTPC also be damned. NTPC has been waging a running battle with RIL, now lodged in the courts to get its share of KG Basin gas for its Kawas and Gandhar plants. But to no avail, a powerless power ministry has been tripped repeatedly by the all powerful petroleum ministry.With the government practically impleading itself in the Ambani gas row to protect Mukesh Ambani's interests in the gas row, calling the family MoU as null and void in the matter, despite the honourable Maharasttra High Court ruling in favour of Anil Ambani owned Reliance Natural Resources, caution has now been thrown to the winds.

The government's law officers are perturbed at the appropriation of absolute power by Reliance Industries. The government's response in the honourable Supreme Court vetted by RIL officials and presented in a brazen manner by Mohan Parasaran and T S Doabia. What has shocked one and all and a senior Cabinet minister has privately even called it a disgrace and a matter of shame is the manner in which Justice Doabia is being allowed to subvert the system. Doabia, a retired justice is incidentally is the same man who wrote to SEBI and the ministry of finance seeking a probe in the Anil Ambani owned Reliance Power IPO a couple of years back using the plea that the interest of the public should be protected and the said IPO should not be allowed to proceed. It was proved that the missive was fired off with malafide intent and both the ministry of finance and SEBI threw out the petition and allowed the IPO to go ahead.

Now the same Doabia is once again leading the charge in the framing of the government affidavit against RNRL. With the Prime mInister travelling abroad and the Cabinet and senior government law officers not even informed or approached, the petroleum ministry is functioning in an arbitrary and unilateral manner. Since the Cabinet has not even approved the strategy adopted by the petroleum ministry, it is fair to say that there is consternation in the ranks of the UPA coalition.With the Centre urging the apex court to quash the June 15 Bombay High Court order directing Mukesh Ambani to fulfil his 'commitment' and provide gas to Anil Ambani's RNRL as per an MoU between them, suggesting that it was null and void and that the Ambani brothers could not hold the economy hostage, the pinch is being felt by RNRL and not RIL. Very cleverly, the Centre, read petroleum ministry and its minister Murli Deora is using the Ambani brothers tag to target younger sibling Anil Ambani only.The role of Parasaran and Doabia, noted Anil Ambani baiters in this is also not lost on several top ranking politicians who believe that the younger Ambani might be getting the worst end of the stick.

What is even more intriguing is that Doabia was the government's counsel in the RIL-RNRL dispute in the Bombay High Court from the beginning. As senior government counsel in the high profile case, he was instrumental in the government involving itself in what was essentially a dispute between two brothers. CNBC TV 18 reported on November 18, 2007 that Doabia was replaced by then additional solicitor general Mohan Parasaran in the case. Doabia came under fire after NTPC fighting a parallel gas row case against RIL found the senior counsel compromising its own position in the Bombay High Court. Yet, both Doabia and Parasaran have been at the vanguard of the petroleum ministry's role in adopting an intervenionist stance on behalf of Mukesh Ambani. NTPC had trashed the government counsel Doabia's submission that it had no case against RIL since it did not have a concluded gas supply pact with RIL. NTPC chairman R S Sharma had told Economic Times 22 August that the "RIL-NTPC agreement was legally valid and concluded one. The counsel's comments are false and misleading, our lawyers will strongly deny such loose statements in a court of law."

Fiction however, is stranger than fact in the gas saga as Mukesh Ambani's B Team - the petroleum ministry - pulls out all the stops to ensure that RIL and Ambani SR do not give any gas to the younger brother. A small aside on the RIL-NTPC case which is shrouded in controversy. On June 18, 2005, the family MoU was inked and RIL pulled the plug on its gas supply agreement with NTPC on June 17, 2005 by dashing off a letter to NTPC saying that the gas supply agreement was not a concluded one. At every step, there has been subterfuge used by RIL and the petroleum ministry to thwart RNRL.

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