Vol 3, PW 3 (03 Mar 99) People & Policy

The big winner in the current round of political turmoil is undoubtedly the Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas, Vazhappady Ramamurthy.

Political pundits - including this report - have long predicted his imminent demise. It was difficult not too.

Everyone - including members of the cabinet - were after his scalp. Surprisingly Ramamurthy is today secure and confident in his job, making very public appearance to welcome, for example, his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates, Obaid Bin Saif Al-Nasir, who visited India this month.

The reason behind Ramamurthys unexpected resurrection is two-fold: political and commercial. His removal as oil minister was always linked to a demand by his enemy, Jayalalitha, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, to have him dropped.

A cabinet reshuffle, however, has been postponed indefinitely, as the government's survival is put to the test in parliament over Bihar (See: STORY 2). In such a charged atmosphere, it has become impossible for the prime minister to remove Ramamurthy unilaterally.

If he did, he would be ridiculed for bowing to the demands of Jayalalitha. As always, it is the influence of Reliance Industries, Indias foremost corporate house, which provides the second reason why Ramamurthy - for the moment at least - remains firmly secure in his post.

He still enjoys the support of Reliance. Had he done anything during his tenure to seriously offend Reliance, we would have seen the back of him months ago.