IS RELIANCE UNDERMINING THE GOVERNMENT?

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

One of the hottest (unconfirmed) rumours circulating in Mumbai is that Reliance Industries is behind the current spate of troubles faced by the BJP-led government.

It is commonly accepted that Reliance wants to see the BJP government fall. The companys propaganda machine is believed to have been directly behind the resignation of Omprakash Chautala and his Haryana Lok Dal Party from the ruling coalition, leaving the BJP with a precarious majority.

Reliance is now believed to be working on disgruntled BJP parliamentarians and "soft targets" such as the commerce minister Ramkrishna Hegde and his Lok Shakti party. As ever, Reliance's principal motive in wanting to see the BJP removed is money.

Reliance reckons it stands to lose $238m a year if the BJP continues in power. This is the amount it argues the government should pay in terminalling charges for product from its 27m t/y Jamnagar refinery and surplus petrol (see: STORY 23).

Reliance reckons a Congress government is more likely to pay these charges on its behalf. Lal Krishna Advani, the BJP Interior Minister, and the second most powerful man in the country, continues to be staunchly anti-Reliance, despite the persuasive efforts of Pramod Mahajan, Minister for Information and Broadcasting, and a Reliance ally in the cabinet.

Reliance's relations with the BJP soured when the company backed a splinter rebel BJP group in Gujarat (See: