Feverish lobbying as ONGC top job interviews approach

Vol 11, PW 2 (31 May 07) People & Policy

Lobbying in Delhi’s corridors of power is building up to fever pitch in the run up to interviews for the selection of CMD at ONGC, India’s foremost state-owned oil explorer.

Interviews are scheduled in Delhi on 5th and 6th June before a search committee that includes representatives from the government’s Public Enterprises Selection Board and two external “expertsâ€‌. Till last week, 27 candidates had been put on a â€کshort-list’ for the interviews.

The PESB has added one more name: Ashok Golas, chief general manager at state-owned telecommunications provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. All the 28 candidates on the â€کshort-list’ will be interviewed but at present the competition seems to be between ONGC Videsh managing director RS Butola and Dr AK Balyan, director human resources at ONGC. This is not to rule out the emergence of a dark horse just before or during the interviews.

Both Butola and Balyan are said to be assiduously working their connections to powerful (ruling) Congress party politicians from north India. Butola was the only person from within ONGC who was not interviewed last year by the PESB for the CMD job.

“He (Butola) is making that as a point in his favour, as he was asked not to go for the interview,â€‌ says a source. “Dr Balyan is also playing his cards well, even though he was rejected last year.

â€‌ Close behind are ONGC’s temporary chairman and director finance RS Sharma and ex-civil servant Najeeb Jung. Now based in UK with the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, Jung used to be joint secretary exploration in the oil ministry around the time the government took the controversial decision to sell the Panna-Mukta-Tapti fields offshore Mumbai to Enron and Reliance.

As a civil servant, it is said Jung had no choice but to sign the PMT privatisation file after approval by his superiors. What would be Jung’s strengths for the job of ONGC CMD “Any civil servant will bring a lot of different strengths,â€‌ we are told.