Vol 2, PW 26 (20 Jan 99) People & Policy

Many see the litmus test of Reliances power in India in its ability to save Vazhappadi Ramamurthy from the axe.

Much circumstantial evidence exists to suggest that Reliance Industries and Ramamurthy enjoy a close working relationship. (1) Ramamurthy's son was until recently employed by Reliance Industries.

It is only very recently that he pulled out of Reliance. (2) Ajit Singh Bhalla, one of the private secretaries in Ramamurthys office was planted there by Reliance.

Bhalla was a former employee of Indian Petrochemicals and Reliance. (3) When a police party raided the office and residence of Balasubramanian (Balu), the Delhi representative of Reliance Industries, they found bundles of internal papers and secret papers which could only have come from Ramamurthys office.

(4) Ramamurthy has admitted that "Balu" was introduced to him by GK Moopanar, President of the Tamil Maanila Congress (Both Ramamurthy and Moopanar were once in the Narasimha Rao-led Congress party before each broke away to set up splinter groups). (5) Most decisions of the petroleum ministry under Ramamurthy have unashamedly favoured Reliance.

Ramamurthys actions on behalf of Reliance have consistently infuriated Jayalalitha. She suspects Reliance had a hand in breaking her political alliance and has ordered her ally, Subramanian Swamy, to orchestrate a campaign against the company in the press and in parliament.

Jayalalithas resentment of Reliance Industries is nothing new. In the early days of the BJP government, she sacked RK Kumar, her nominee as Minister of State for Finance, because of his proximity to Reliance.

Officially, Kumar resigned for "personal reasons". Unofficially, he suffered a nervous breakdown after a particularly severe dressing down from Jayalalitha.