BATTLE HOTS UP AROUND CHANDRA

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

Lobbyists for and against Chandra have been sharpening their knives for some weeks now.

Much of this behind-the-scenes fighting has spilt out into the open via a spate of press articles. In particular, senior figures from his former employer Oil India Ltd, are using their influence with the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) to block his appointment, while several MPs are actively canvassing on his behalf.

Even the oil minister Vazhappadi Ramamurthy is going out of his way to promote him. Ramamurthy and his junior Santosh Kumar Gangwar even met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to seek his blessing for the move.

The PM is said to be reconsidering his previous opposition to Chandras appointment. The anonymous note is the latest attempt to discredit Chandra.

It makes serious allegations; questions his integrity and suggests he is in the pay of Reliance Industries. As ever with such allegations, little evidence is provided.

Some of the comments are plainly untrue, and designed solely to slander him. For example, "Avinash is very dictatorial (short-tempered is a better description), does not meet foreign investors (rubbish, he keeps them waiting but does eventually meet them) is opulence-loving and has created a palatial office for himself (untrue, the DGH office is clean and modern, not palatial)".

The mysterious author of the note, however, goes on to suggest that through his appointment, "his benefactor industrial house (ie. Reliance) which is also close to the minister, wants to establish complete sway over the oil and gas sector in which it has large interests".

It adds that the post of Director General was never advertised and that Ramamurthy is flouting recommendations made by parliament in trying to steam-roll Chandras confirmation as DGH boss.