scorecardresearch
Saturday, Dec 10, 2022

I felt let down, was taken aback: Aiyar

Less than a month after being unceremoniously removed as petroleum minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar has refuted allegations that his souring relationship with the Gandhi family and the public spat with ONGC boss Subir Raha were responsible for his ouster.

Less than a month after being unceremoniously removed as petroleum minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar has refuted allegations that his souring relationship with the Gandhi family and the public spat with ONGC boss Subir Raha were responsible for his ouster.
Talking to a news channel, Aiyar admitted he felt “let down” on being stripped of the petroleum portfolio “of course, one feels let down after taking so many new initiatives.”
“I will have to confess that I was taken aback,” he said. “But I must also emphasise that at the time I was given the (petroleum) portfolio, I was told very very clearly categorically that this is a temporary assignment. What I had thought at that time was that it must be for 20 days. (But) when nothing happened for 20 months, I thought it was forgotten,” he said.
According to Aiyar, Pime Minister Manmohan Singh called him up before his removal and complimented him.
“He (Singh) rang me to say that he thought I had done a very good job and he was still trying to see if I could be retained but it did not appear possible.”
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, he said emphasised that the petroleum portfolio was always a temporary charge and when the UPA government’s first major reshuffle happened, he had to loose it.
She told him that Sports and Youth Affairs was an equally important portfolio, as the coming commonwealth games were a big public concern.
Terming as “completely misleading” the presumption that he was removed because his enthusiasm on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline ran contrary to the view in Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of External Affairs, he said, “I could not get off the ground (on the project) without full backing of the Prime Minister.”
Claiming that the pipeline was 100 per cent on track, Aiyar said Singh in July 2005 did mention of difficulties in getting international financial institutions to finance the project, but his “backing to the pipeline has been total.”
Prime Minister, he said, told a Pakistani delegation led by its Oil Minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon last week that “we remain fully committed to this project because we need gas.”
Asked about his meeting with US Ambassador to India David Mulford, Aiyar said Mulford had met him twice and expressed US reservation on the project but “there was no pressure, no attempt to cajole, no attempt to tempt and no attempt to dissuade from going ahead” on the project.
He did not agree with the suggestion that there was a US pressure to remove him.
Aiyar denied that his relationship with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had been affected by his handling of their request for a petroleum-training institute in Rae Bareli.
After Rahul’s second letter about a year back, he said he had submitted a factual report, based on the recommendation of the consultant appointed by the previous NDA regime, on the proposal to set up the institute. “I never said it couldn’t be done,” he said adding he never endorsed the consultants’ view of unavailability of the institute.
Aiyar admitted receiving Sonia Gandhi’s letter seeking status report and said as he saw no jobs in the area for the oil technicians the proposed institute would have produced, he upgraded it to Rajiv Gandhi Petroleum Training Institute.
On his relationship with Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and its chairman Subir Raha, he denied he ever wanted to sack him or threatened to remove ONGC’s navratna status. “I have repeatedly stated that I think Subir Raha is a terrific CEO. But ONGC needs a reorientation in the manner in which it was functioning.”
Aiyar had publicly objected to Raha’s vision for diversifying ONGC into downstream refining and petrochemicals business.
“I had no intention to vote him out,” he said also denying that he ever humiliated ONGC officials in public.
He denied that he should have handled Raha with greater tact and discretion and said he had no regrets about the way he handled Raha.

First published on: 25-02-2006 at 07:54:06 pm
Next Story

Expectations high for Indo-US ties

Latest Comment
Post Comment
Read Comments
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
close