After sulking over the sudden change of his portfolio for a full day, leading to speculations of his resignation, 70-year old Jaipal Reddy finally assumed office as the minister of science and technology on Monday. He, however, could hardly hide his displeasure over being shunted out from the petroleum ministry.
Sources say Reddy’s anti-Reliance stance had become a problem for the Manmohan Singh government, which is trying to create a pro-industry image.
Responding to a question on whether his anti-Reliance stance led to his exit, Reddy said he had only implemented and not devised policies. “I didn’t devise policies. I implemented already laid down policies,” he said.
As the media was agog with reports of his displeasure, the new petroleum minister Veerapa Moily called on Reddy at 3 pm. The prime minister also reportedly spoke to him, asking him to stop embarrassing the government and forcing him to hold a press conference to deny being upset.
Though Reddy said he was “excited” to be a part of another important ministry, he could hardly suppress the anger that spilled out between the words.
A top Congress source told DNA Reddy had embarrassed the party with his behind-the-scene activities on the Telangana issue as well, despite repeated warnings that his activities were against the policy of the government and the party.
As petroleum minister, Reddy paid special attention to the policy matters concerning RIL. He had also charted ouster for those officials who had a pro-Reliance image in the ministry.
At one point, it looked inevitable that the price of natural gas would be de-regularised to meet the demand of RIL. However, Reddy made sure that no such revision took place during his tenure. He rather maintained that any revision in the prices of natural gas would be taken only in 2014.
Reddy had also barred the RIL from recovering $1.005 billion out of the $5.756 billion investment it had made on developing KGD6 basin. He wanted to penalise the company for not meeting the production targets from the gas field. RIL on the other hand claimed that the production was coming down due to unforeseen technical and geographical issues.
Another bone of contention between him and the oil conglomerate was that RIL claimed that the natural gas reserves in the KGD6 basin were only 3.10 trillion cubic feet, which is almost 70% less then the original estimates.