Jamestin beats Vasudeva for Reddy's blessing

Vol 14, PW 21 (21 Apr 11) People & Policy

Sudhir Vasudeva still doesn’t know if he’ll be the next chairman of ONGC but KS Jamestin is being fast-tracked to become the corporation’s next director human resources.

PETROWATCH learns oil minister Jaipal Reddy formally endorsed Jamestin’s selection on (Saturday) April 16, a day after his return from a visit to the Mumbai High. Two days later, we hear, ONGC was told of Reddy’s approval, and that Jamestin’s file would go to the ACC (Appointments Committee of the Cabinet) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, from where an official announcement would follow.

“Once with the ACC it should not take more than 10-15 days,” reports a source. Reddy’s prompt decision to endorse Jamestin comes after he received a clean bill of health from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) anti-corruption watchdog on April 5.

Contrast the minister’s swift endorsement of Jamestin with his ambivalence towards Vasudeva. “When Reddy returned from the Mumbai High we all thought he would sign Vasudeva’s file also,” says a Vasudeva supporter.

“During the Mumbai High trip Reddy hinted he would approve his (Vasudeva’s) file.” A witness on the Mumbai High trip reports that Reddy, while visiting a production platform, told Vasudeva: “Very soon a new director offshore will take care of the Mumbai High.

” On hearing this, acting chairman AK Hazarika, abruptly moved to a waiting helicopter and left the platform - before the minister! Vasudeva’s popularity with oil ministry officials is the stuff of legend. Inside the ministry there’s incomprehension at Reddy’s reluctance to endorse Vasudeva, particularly after his open hint during the Mumbai High visit.

One theory has it the minister wants to avoid the fate of his predecessor Murli Deora and be tainted as a Reliance poodle. Mukesh Ambani once supported Vasudeva, but the Reliance chairman’s position is today unclear.

Another whisper suggests Reddy is waiting for Congress president Sonia Gandhi to give Vasudeva her blessing, while yet another suggests the minister wants to return the file to the CVC again (!) when it finds a replacement for PJ Thomas.