Pradhan takes yet another dig at Shashi Shanker

Vol 22, PW 10 (07 Mar 19) People & Policy

Dharmendra Pradhan and ONGC chairman Shashi Shanker clearly aren't on the best of terms.

How else to explain the oil minister's decision to make a pointed dig at ONGC towards the end of his speech at the Radisson Blue hotel in Guwahati on March 1? In a speech to inaugurate nine local infrastructure projects, Pradhan cited how the Gujarat state government had sued ONGC for royalties and won a Rs8392cr ($1.2bn) payout in 2017. Much to Shanker's embarrassment, Pradhan went on to reveal how he once advised former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress Party to do the same after the BJP came to power in 2014.

"I asked Gogoi to sue ONGC like Gujarat did under Modi," said Pradhan, as Shanker smiled nervously on the dais. "But he (Gogoi) was afraid of the Congress leadership."

In a hurried conversation with this report before rushing off, Shanker said the central government had at the time provided a subsidy for the payout on behalf of ONGC to Gujarat. Pradhan's assault on ONGC was in sharp contrast to the affection he showered on Oil India chief Utpal Bora and Numaligarh Refinery boss SK Barua, both also on the dais, while trumpeting the BJP's achievements in northeast India.

"Look how we have treated the northeast," he said in Hindi. "Here are Bora-ji and Barua-ji.

We sought them out. They are sons of the soil (both belong to Assam)."