With election campaign reaching acrescendo in Gujarat, Congress on Monday demanded an answer from chief minister Narendra Modi over a report alleging that his government gave a foreign company stake worth Rs. 20,000 crore in a gas exploration project virtually for nothing.
Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari at the same time made it clear that he was not demanding any probe into the matter and does not believe in "putting the cart before the horse".
He posed a number of questions to Modi regarding the deal but caveated his response by frequently adding, "If what the report has said is true."
A recent report by Tehelka magazine alleged that the Modi government gave away 10% stake in a KG Basin gas field to GeoGlobal Resources, a company that existed only on paper.
It also said that the Barbados-based company didn't pay a single penny for the 10% stake given to it by the Gujarat government.
The report says the deal between GeoGlobal and the state government-owned Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), gave the Barbados company Rs. 20,000 crore, virtually for nothing.
Noting that the story of Tehelka raised certain questions, which Gujarat government and especially the chief minister must answer, Tewari asked, "Who is the beneficiary?
"Is it a fact that the GeoGlobal was given 10% of the equity in the consortium because they had committed to bring proven international experience in gas exploration and that the same company had in a declaration to the US government had said that prior to going to India, they had no prior experience in gas exploration."
"Why were six crore people of Gujarat were made to bear with the cost, which the particular company was supposed to pay. We would like the Gujarat chief minister to answer to," Tewari said, apparently ridiculing Modi.
The Gujarat chief minister frequently refers in his speeches to the six crore Gujaratis.
Asked why he is so hesitant in demanding a probe if he suspects something wrong in this issue in the Opposition-ruled state and whether he feels there is corruption involved in it, Tewari said, "We are not in habit of making unsubstantiated and unwanted allegations. We are not demanding inquiry. You are putting the cart before the horse.
"It is not in our DNA to make insinuations. Since we thought that the facts that have come out in public space and they are important, we thought it was important to flag it. We as well the six crore people of Gujarat have a right to know what is the truth.
"The stage of demanding probe comes after a response is received. Every body has a right to respond to an allegation at least once. Had we demanded a probe in the beginning, we would have been accused to levelling allegations with political motive."
Taking a jibe at Modi's 3D election campaign in the state, Tewari said, "Modi should give an answer to these facts and better if he answers it in 3D (format), then the entire population of Gujarat will come to know of it."