A hard act to follow at Petronet-LNG

Vol 4, PW 20 (08 Nov 00) People & Policy

Politicians and bureaucrats routinely tell you the transfer of officials has no impact on policy.

Only a fool would believe it. Narayan's transfer will have a dramatic impact on the oil and gas sector, not least because the new secretary needs at least a month to settle into his new job and grasp the complexities of a sector as far related from the food business as you could imagine.

In politics as elsewhere, personalities make a difference. Shankar is reported to be "quiet" and "unassuming", diligent but is loathe to raise his voice, a contrast to the robust and proactive Narayan who last March had no hesitation in persuading a sceptical oil minister to appoint him as chairman of Petronet-LNG, despite condemnation from peers in the bureaucracy and the press for his initiative.

"Naik told me if I failed, I would get the blame, but if I succeeded somebody else would get the credit," Narayan tells Petrowatch. Luckily, Naik now considers Petronet-LNG a top priority.

On November 3rd, he announced that Shankar would assume Narayan's place as chairman of Petronet-LNG with immediate effect. The big question is whether Shankar can bulldoze the project through with the same determination as Narayan, or inspire similar fear among the public sector bosses at Indian Oil, Gas Authority of India and ONGC, which are its shareholders.

"Narayan treated them like spoilt children," said oneinsider, "Deep down I think they are happy to see him go."