Unpredictable Reddy keeps all guessing

Vol 14, PW 16 (10 Feb 11) People & Policy

Jaipal Reddy is keeping oil ministry bureaucrats on their toes with his ‘unpredictable’ style and nocturnal work habits.

Reddy became oil minister on January 19 in a cabinet reshuffle that saw his predecessor Murli Deora move sideways to the ministry of corporate affairs. During his six years as oil minister, Deora was not known to daily visit the oil ministry at Shastri Bhawan in Delhi, preferring to work from home.

Contrast that with Reddy, who travels to the office daily, but comes and goes at odd hours. “Reddy comes in around 4.30pm,” says an oil ministry source.

“Then he attends a meeting, goes home, and returns to the office again around 6.30pm, staying until 8.30pm or later.” Reddy’s unpredictability means ministry bureaucrats can be called at any time, with little notice.

Take January 31, for example. A source reports Reddy reached his office at 6.30pm when most bureaucrats were set to go home to their families or head off to their favourite clubs for a drink.

“Everyone was about to leave when Reddy reached the office,” we learn. “He must have sat there till 9pm.

” Poor ministry bureaucrats were forced to forget their evening plans and sit with Reddy, heads hurting as they struggled to understand his impenetrable English - a result of his post-graduate degree in English from Hyderabad’s prestigious Osmania University. Some bureaucrats were also summoned to Reddy’s 8 Tees January Marg residence for meetings.

Among them joint secretary (refineries) LN Gupta, who went there at 4pm on January 29 and joint secretary (exploration) DN Narasimha Raju who made his presentation at 11:30am a day earlier. On the bright side, ministry visitors report Reddy is a patient, attentive listener.

“He listens with a smile,” we are told, “but he does not say much.”