Subbaram Narayan 'not his usual self'

Vol 4, PW 7 (10 May 00) People & Policy

Another government official feeling a touch insecure is none other than the most powerful oil official in the country - Subbaram Narayan, Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.

"His body language suggests there's something wrong," an oil ministry source tells Petrowatch, "He hasn't been his normal self for the past two weeks." Though the official was not sure of the reasons behind Narayans discomfiture, corridor rumour has it that he has been obstructing a major industrial group in India, which is deeply involved in the country's oil and gas sector and routinely demands the transfer of obstructionist officials. Veteran readers of Petrowatch will have no difficulty guessing who that group is.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Narayan has been ignoring directions from the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) to look favourably on this particular company's all-India projects. Speculation is now rife that moves are afootto remove him from the oil ministry because of his "unhelpful attitude".

Already the vultures are circling. Devi Dayal, a former Additional Secretary in the oil ministry, is reportedly trying to replace Narayan as Secretary.

Dayal belongs to the Scheduled Caste (lower caste) and wields considerable clout among politicians in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state. He is especially close to Murli Manohar Joshi, the Minister for Human Resources Development.

Joshi has already told the PMO that Dayal is the right choice for the post of oil secretary. However, the all-powerful Cabinet Secretary, Natwar Singh, who runs the PMO, remains undecided on a successor to Narayan.

It is believed Singh is making inquiries to find a candidate in tune with the wishes of the PMO.