New Delhi: Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani on Wednesday came under attack from India Against Corruption (IAC) which alleged that the UPA and the previous NDA governments had favoured his company by giving contract on gas exploration in KG Basin and concessions at a huge cost to the exchequer.
Calling it a "classic case of crony capitalism", activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan alleged that Reliance was "blackmailing" the government to increase the price of gas by "almost stopping" the production and indulging in "hoarding like petty traders".
Kejriwal started his press conference at the Constitution Club in the national capital with the Radia audio tapes which allegedly had conversation with the lobbyist and son-in-law of former PM of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The conversation purportedly had them discussing portfolios of various ministers.
The second audio tape had Rajan Bhattacharya allegedly quoting Mukesh Ambani as saying that the Congress party was his `shop`.
Attacking the decision to shift S Jaipal Reddy from Petroleum Ministry, the IAC activist alleged it was now "absolutely crystal clear" that he was eased out of the crucial ministry only on account of "pressure" from Reliance Industries.
The IAC said that Reddy was "honest" and his "ouster" was only because he "actively resisted" Reliance` demand for an increase in the price of gas and wanted to penalise the company for "willful reduction" of production of gas.
"Moily was brought in to help Reliance raise the price of gas," Kejriwal alleged. "Hike in gas prices will accrue a benefit of Rs 43,000 crore to the RIL," he further claimed.
New Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily refused to react to the allegations.
Tracing the history of allocation of portfolios to those who were soft on the Reliance industries, he also said, "In the past Mani Shankar Aiyer was replaced with Murli Deora as oil minister to benefit Ambani."
"Benefits to RIL is leading to serious price rise in the country," he added.
Also attacking President of India, IAC activist said that Pranab Mukherjee had given undue benefits of Rs 8,000 crore to RIL in 2007.
BJP was also not spared and was accused of favouring Reliance by the IAC. "In the year 2000, NDA had favoured Reliance."
Kejriwal put forward a moot question in front of the media - "Who is running the country?" In the same vein he said, "It seems that Ambani is running the country."
He categorically said, "Both the Congress and the BJP are in Ambani`s pocket."
Kejriwal also questioned the silence and the compulsions of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He asked why the PM did not seek the opinion of the Attorney General when the then Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar "refused to give in" to Reliance` demand for increasing the price of gas from USD 2.34 per unit to USD 4.2 per unit in 2006.
Former Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar however denied IAC allegations saying no proposal for raising gas price ever came before him.
Kejriwal demanded that Reliance should be stopped from running amok and that their KG Basin contract should be cancelled.
Meanwhile, Reliance Industries today rejected charges of receiving favours from government for its KG-D6 gas project, saying allegations by IAC were at the "behest of vested interests".
"The statements made by IAC are devoid of any truth or substance whatsoever and are denied," the company said in a statement.
KG-D6 fields, India`s first deep-sea project that was developed in a record six-years time, "has added great economic value to the country and by all accounts is a project of which India can be justly proud", RIL said.
"The deep-water exploration project in the KG-D6 basin has deployed the best technical resources and has been recognised by the oil and gas industry as one of the very best in its class,"
"Irresponsible allegations made by IAC at the behest of vested interests without basic understanding of the complexities of a project of this nature do not merit a response," it added.
With PTI inputs