Oil Minister Veerappa Moily sparked off a controversy saying that oil ministers in the country faced threats from oil import lobbies, which did not want the imports to come down.
The stunning remark came at a time when the oil and gas production in the country has been stagnant, and the only way to increase it, according to Moily, is giving higher returns on investments to private players. “A price correction will help attract investments in the stagnant oil and gas exploration and will lead to higher domestic output and lesser reliance on imports,” he said.
“There are bureaucratic obstructions and delays. And also there are other lobbies. They don’t want us to stop imports. There are some lobbies who are working on that. Every minister is threatened many a times. Every minister who occupies this position is threatened,” Moily added. He, however, refused to name anyone or identify anyone who may have directly or indirectly threatened ministers. “History will speak about it. It is for you to judge,” he said.
His statement immediately drew sharp reactions, with the opposition challenging him to name the people who threatened him. Former petroleum minister and senior BJP leader Ram Naik said no pressure was ever brought on him during his five year tenure from 1999, and Moily should name the lobbies that put pressure on him or his predecessors, S Jaipal Reddy, Murli Deora or Mani Shankar Aiyar.
Criticising Moily for the statement, CPI leader D Raja asked him to name the people or company who threatened him. “He wants to justify the hike in natural gas price by saying this. Nobody can threaten a cabinet minister, and if someone is doing it, he should name him,”Raja said.
Later in the day, the Congress party seemed to distance itself from Moily’s remark saying that only he can explain it. “He (Moily) will explain what he has said. This is for the concerned minister to explain not for the party to say anything. Only Moily can say what is the issue and its context... What action he has taken to isolate such lobbies,” party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed told reporters at the AICC briefing.
India currently imports crude oil worth $160 billion and it is the largest item in the import basket of the country. In the field of natural gas, India is the fifth largest importer after Japan, South Korea, the UK and Spain.
–With agency inputs