Samajwadi Party takes aim at Ratna oilfield

Vol 4, PW 14 (16 Aug 00) People & Policy
     

Why is India's opposition Samajwadi (Socialist) Party so interested in the fate of the Ratna and R Series of oilfields that have been awarded to a consortium of Premier Oil of the UK and Essar Oil of India.

Is it acting on behalf of someone Who knows, but repeated mention of the fields by Samajwadi Party heavyweights is provoking more questions than answers. Amar Singh, widely recognised as one of India's most skilful political operators, is the latest to raise market eyebrows.

On July 31st, in a parliamentary debate in India's upper house Singh demanded an explanation from oil minister Ram Naik for the delay in signing a Production Sharing Contract for Ratna. A flustered Naik told the house Essar and Premier must meet a September 18th deadline to finalise the PSC ahead of signing.

Useful information, indeed. But it misses the point.

Singh's intervention is the second time in two months the Samajwadi Party has raised the issue of Ratna. On June 10th, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, and Singh's patron, wrote a letter to prime minister Vajpayee demanding that Essar/Premier be stripped of the award (See: "11-Mulayam Singh Yadav (who) slams Ratna award", PW Vol 4, Issue 10).

Luckily for Essar and Premier oil ministry mandarins consistently defend the award. "In the very unlikely event that Essar is stripped of this award," an observer tells Petrowatch, "The fields will go back to ONGC - no one else." The inference is clear.

Ratna was awarded to Essar and Premier in March 1996. The only other offer received when bids closed on 31st March 1994 was from Reliance Petroleum.

(See below: "9--Essar and Premier told to resolve Ratna differences")

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