In a startling revelation, Union petroleum and natural gas minister M Veerappa Moily on Friday said every petroleum minister in the country is threatened by powerful oil import lobbies to deter them from taking decisions that could cut India’s ever growing oil import, which stood at $160 billion (Rs 8.8 lakh crore) last year.
“These lobbies don’t want us (the government) to stop oil imports and threaten every minister in this position... I can't be threatened,” the minister said.
Moily said he has proposed to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) the raising of domestic gas prices from the current $4.2 per million British thermal unit to $6.775.
Last month, the minister had refuted allegations from CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta that the proposed revision in gas pricing was being done to benefit private sector players such as Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries.
Moily said he was trying to revive investor sentiment by giving a “right” price for gas.
A correction in gas prices, Moily said, will help attract investments from global oil and gas majors in India’s stagnant oil and gas exploration sector besides leading to higher domestic output and lower dependence on imports.
“I am telling you with all sense of responsibility (that) we are floating in oil and gas in this country... but we don’t explore it...“And also there are other lobbies. They don't want us to stop imports. There are some lobbies that are working on that. Every minister is threatened many a times,” he told reporters here.
The charge was quickly slammed by opposition parties, with some calling him a “liar”. After Moily's remarks, Dasgupta said, “He (Moily) is trying to give benefits to corporates, especially Reliance. He is making up stories to save himself.”
Dasgupta also said that if anyone was threatening Moily, then he should come out and name him. Moily however refused to name anyone.
The Congress left it to Moily to explain his remark but strongly denied any such pressure behind S Jaipal Reddy's exit from the ministry in the last cabinet reshuffle.
Former petroleum minister and senior BJP leader Ram Naik said no pressure was ever brought on him during his five-year tenure from 1999 to 2004, and Moily should name lobbies that brought pressure on him or his predecessors, S Jaipal Reddy, Murli Deora or Mani Shankar Aiyar.
Moily said he will continue to work for an India that is energy independent by 2030.