Gas propaganda war in Gujarat as state elections loom

Vol 16, PW 7 (18 Oct 12) People & Policy

Gujarat’s citizens don’t know whether to believe the oil ministry in Delhi or their own state government, locked in a propaganda war over gas allocations ahead of a two-phase election called for December 13 and December 17.

Over the last two weeks the oil ministry, ostensibly under orders from India’s ruling Congress Party, has repeatedly attacked the BJP-ruled Gujarat government through full-page colour advertisements in local newspapers. “The truth behind cheap domestic gas allotted to Gujarat,” screams the headlines of oil ministry adverts in Gujarat Samachar, Divya Bhaskar, Sandesh and Gujarat Today.

“Gujarat with 30% (34m cm/d) gets the largest share of cheap domestic gas compared to other states in India.” Maharashtra comes second with 18% (20m cm/d) and Delhi gets just 5% (5m cm/d) of the country’s domestic gas.

“All the other 25 states together account for the remaining 47%.” Rubbish, claims the Gujarat state government, which retaliates with its own advertisements, equally rich in bar charts and graphs.

“Gujarat gets only 23.19m cm/d of cheap domestic gas,” reads their advert. “It goes only to big companies like Reliance, Essar, GAIL and IndianOil or fertiliser companies like Kribhco, IFFCO, GSFC and GNFC.

” BJP also accuses Congress of being “step-motherly” to 60 million Gujarat residents who pay the highest CNG prices in India, pointing out that state-owned Hindustan Petroleum retails CNG at Rs43.50/kg in Andhra Pradesh but Rs56.90/kg in Gujarat. “In other states, elections are fought over unemployment, water, free TV sets, free rice and free power,” says a bemused observer.

“This is the first time I’ve seen one fought over gas.”