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Sunday, April 18, 2021

The KG(aseous) balloon: The end of the Modi dream?

The issue is not just about Modi ji’s gaseous exaggerations. It is also about diversion of public funds and corruption.

Written by Pushparaj Deshpande |
Updated: May 11, 2016 9:13:23 am
krishna-godavari759 Krishna-Godavari basin.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is precisely what has happened to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In his quest for absolute power, he has systematically laid the foundations of an authoritarian state by undermining every single leader within the BJP, and by ruthlessly crushing any dissent. That is why India has been witness to the dastardly “suppression by stealth” of the media, civil society, academics, students, and obviously the political opposition. Concurrently, he has undertaken a Gobblesian propaganda campaign to obfuscate/embellish his past and present, presumably to establish himself as the greatest saint politician India has ever seen (purer than even Mahatma Gandhi).


One such sordid tale that this Gobblesian campaign seeks to suppress is the Krishna Godavari-Basin (KG-Basin) scam. In 2005, then CM Modi abruptly announced that the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) had discovered 20 trillion cubic feet of gas in KG basin (that the BJP promptly renamed the Deendayal West area block), which would generate revenue worth Rs. 2.2 lakh crore for India! Everyone (including the state and central administrations as well as subject experts) was astonished at this fantastic claim. If true, such a find would have made India energy self-sufficient, a must for any country aspiring for super power status. Modi’s announcement therefore generated euphoric excitement and even shifted the narrative from him being the alleged mastermind of the 2002 riots to a potential Prime Ministerial candidate. In fact, given how events unfolded, it is abundantly clear that the announcement (like everything else PM Modi does) was just another exaggerated publicity stunt.

Four years after CM Modi made the announcement, GSPC’s “Field Development report” pointed out that less than 10 per cent of what was claimed was actually available and that it would be commercially unviable to drill for so little gas, or sell it at the prevailing market rate. Unfortunately for GSPC, they didn’t know (as India is painfully realising now) that Modiji pays heed exclusively to his own mann ki baat! He thus ignored the field report, and forced GSPC to go ahead with the project. Because of this, GSPC borrowed nearly Rs 20,000 crore from 15 different public and private sector banks. And what does India have in return? Nothing! As of May 2016, GSPC’s KG Basin block has not even started commercial production. In fact, as per GSPC’s own annual reports, after 2005 its gas reserves have consistently declined.

But the issue is not just about Modiji’s gaseous exaggerations. It is also about diversion of public funds and corruption. After coercing GSPC to go ahead with drilling in KG basin, CM Modi forced it to partner with a company named Geo Global. Now here’s the interesting bit.

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Geo Global  was reportedly incorporated just six days before the agreement with GSPC. At the time of entering into the agreement with GSPC, Geo Global’s capital was reportedly a measly Rs 3,200. A week after the agreement, its capital mushroomed to Rs 10,000 crore.

Similarly, GSPC was reportedly forced to dole out contracts for complex extraction rigs and platforms to Tuff Drilling. Tuff Drilling’s promoter was primarily in the apparel business before landing GSPC’s contract and had no prior experience in gas extraction. Since then, CM Modi forced GSPC to disburse over Rs 5,000 crore to similar dubious companies!

Given that GSPC has not produced any gas from the KG-basin, where did the Rs 20,000 crore vanish? Assuming Rs 5,000 crore was spent on purchasing and setting up equipment (even if this went to dubious companies), that still leaves Rs 15,000 crore. Was this public money diverted to fund Modi ji’s extravagant 2014 election campaign? Does this not merit an independent high level judicial probe? And even more interestingly, when the screws were tightened on Vijay Mallya for defaulting on Rs. 9000 crore, why is GSPC not being subject to similar treatment? Why is it that instead, its Managing Director was rewarded with an appointment as the Director of the National Informatics Centre?

However, desperately the BJP may sycophantically defend PM Modi, the bitter reality is that under him corruption was rampant in Gujarat. Consider how he gave 250 acres of land (in a restricted wildlife zone) to cronies of the current CM of Gujarat for less than Rs. 1.5 crore.

Similarly, CM Modi gave public land for the Mundra SEZ, which was worth Rs. 1500 per square metre for a pittance (anything between Rs. 01 & Rs. 32). That is why for years, the CAG was deliberately denied access to numerous files in Gujarat. And that is also why under Modi ji, a Lokayukta was not appointed for 10 years.

In his avatar as Prime Ministerial candidate, Modi ji had famously argued “main na khata hoon, na khaane deta hoon”. It seems the truth is different.

Read the CAG reports here:

GSPC, 2015
GSPC, 2011


Pushparaj is an analyst with the Indian National Congress. He has earlier worked with Members of Parliament on legislation and policy matters. Views expressed in the article are personal and are not the view of The Indian Express.

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