UNCERTAIN FUTURE FOR OIL MINISTER RAMAMURTHY

Vol 2, PW 25 (06 Jan 99) People & Policy
     

Harold Wilson, a former British Prime Minister, once said a week is a long time in politics.

Vazhappadi Ramamurthy, the present Indian oil minister would probably agree. In the last issue of Petrowatch we reported how Ramamurthy had strengthened his position by cutting links with Jayaram Jayalalitha, leader of the Tamil Nadu-based AIADMK party and key ally of the BJP.

Since then, a different scenario has begun to emerge. One report suggests the BJP leadership is coming under pressure from Jayalalitha to sack Ramamurthy as oil minister by the next cabinet reshuffle in January.

It is no secret that Jayalalitha feels betrayed by Ramamurthys perceived lack of generosity from the profits earned during his time in the oil ministry. She still has 18 MPs under her command in parliament and these 18 MPs currently support the BJP government.

If she tells them to withdraw support, the government falls. Her power of blackmail is such that the government has gone to the extent of challenging its own anti-corruption probe against her via a petition in the Supreme Court and is also quietly transferring officials who have been probing her too closely.

If Jayalalitha tries hard enough - which she will - the next casualty will most certainly be the oil minister. Ramamurthy is fully aware of the plot and of his vulnerable position.

His party, the Tamizhaga Rajiv Congress (TRC), has just one MP: himself. He is not one to enjoy the humiliation of a public sacking and has apparently asked the Prime Minister to grant him an "honourable exit", ie.

the chance to resign before the cabinet reshuffle. Wait and see.

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