Vol 3, PW 5 (31 Mar 99) People & Policy

None of the above, however, appears to be affecting Ramamurthy, who continues to carry out his daily business with characteristic bravado.

On 25 March, he took the unprecedented step of launching a blistering attack on the Tamil Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) and its award of the LNG tender to the Siemens-led Dakshin Bharat consortium. He launched his attack not in the safety of Delhi, but at a press conference at his party HQ in Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu, within hearing distance of his bitter rival the Tamil Nadu chief minister, N Karunanidhi.

Ramamurthy accused TIDCO of gross irregularities in making the award and insisted that Karunanidhi launch an investigation. To back his claim Ramamurthy held up a letter written to TIDCO on 24 December 1998, by RP Sharma, a Petronet-LNG director.

"It is very astonishing that in spite of clear status of lowest bidder, the Petronas and Petronet-LNG consortium is now being sidelined in favour of parties who were not the lowest". The letter goes on to demand the disqualification of two rival consortia (the implication is Enron/Mitsubishi and Dakshin Bharat, though neither are mentioned by name).

In a background paper prepared for the press, Ramamurthy states that Petronet-LNG first wrote to TIDCO on 8 December 1998, complaining about the legality of the award to Dakshin Bharat and that correspondence between Petronet-LNG and TIDCO continued up to 2 February. TIDCO, meanwhile, obstinately refuses to be drawn into the controversy.

"Any reply to this will be given by the chief minister", a previously fluent source tells this report.