Extension unlikely for IOC chairman Behuria

Vol 13, PW 17 (11 Feb 10) People & Policy

Have Sarthak Behuria’s (left) influential friends in Delhi deserted him PETROWATCH learns from oil ministry sources that Orissa-born Behuria is unlikely to continue as IOC chairman after March 1, when his five-year term ends.

“As of now it seems Behuria will be out by the end of the month!â€‌ says our source. To fill the void left by his departure, the government could temporarily replace Behuria with IOC director business development BM Bansal, who is the most senior director on the board, or a joint secretary level oil ministry officer until the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) chooses a new chairman.

Others say Behuria could secure a surprise last-minute three-month extension if his bridge partner and one-time friend and oil minister Murli Deora intervenes. During those three months, they say, Behuria could lobby for a two-year extension till he retires in March, 2012.

“Behuria might be influential,â€‌ we are told. “But he would still need Deora’s recommendation.

The only other person who could swing it for him is Ahmed Patel (political secretary to Sonia Gandhi).â€‌ Once firm friends, Deora and Behuria are drifting apart, we hear.

Take an incident on September 30 last year when Behuria unwittingly snubbed Deora at the inauguration of the 1150-MW Torrent power station in Gujarat, attended by power minister Sushilkumar Shinde and other state-owned oil company chiefs. Other chairmen desperately competed for Deora’s attention but Behuria left early, breaking protocol.

“He probably didn’t do it on purpose,â€‌ explains a bemused source. “But his enemies will definitely use it against him.

â€‌ Even if the oil minister helps Behuria win an extension there are plenty of bureaucratic hurdles. Deora would have to formally recommend Behuria to the PESB, which will then interview him and pass judgement on his last five years as chairman.

“The entire process can take four to five weeks,â€‌ we hear, "even though only one candidate is interviewed."