Ravi Narayan Bastia, the man who discovered India's biggest gas field, is among the 10 candidates who applied for the top job at state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).
Bastia, who quit ONGC in 1996 to join Reliance Industries, is credited with discovering the gigantic Dhirubhai-1 gas field at the Krishna Godavari basin deep-sea block D6 in 2002. It was ranked as the biggest gas find in the world over the last decade.
A senior vice president heading exploration operations at the Mukesh Ambani-run firm, he is also credited with Reliance Industries Limited's (RIL) Mahanadi Basin gas finds. He was awarded the Padma Sree, the nation's highest civilian honour, in 2007.
Bastia is making a homecoming and has applied for the post of Chairman and Managing Director, ONGC, official sources said. The current incumbent, R S Sharma, retires on January 31, 2011, on attaining the super-annuation age of 60 years.
Sources said that the others in the fray include Sudhir Vasudeva, Director (Offshore), ONGC, D K Saraf, Director (Finance), ONGC, and R S Butola, Managing Director, ONGC Videsh Ltd.
Acting oil regulator S K Srivastava and OIL director (Exploration) B N Talukdar also applied to government head hunter Public Enterprise Selection Board (PESB) on May 6, the last day for applying, they said.
"Bastia may be the most competent man to head ONGC but he is unlikely to get the job because he has the RIL tag," a Petroleum Ministry official said, "the fight is between Vasudeva and Butola, with the former having a slight edge."
ONGC's exploration strategy had gone into disarray after global super majors Petrobras of Brazil, Statoil of Norway and BG Group of UK, which the company had roped in to fill in for its lack of technical knowhow, all walked out.
Bastia, besides discovering huge gas deposits off the east coast, was also a part of the team that put the deep-sea KG-D6, the nation's largest gas producer, into production.
Others who applied for the job by the closing day on May 6 included Pawan Hans Ltd Chairman and Managing Director R K Tyagi, who is an ex-ONGC, N Ravi Shankar, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Information Technology, and GAIL Executive Director B N Trivedi.
PSEB had also invited applications from private sector executives working at the level of director or reporting directly to a director on the board of a listed company, with an annual turnover in excess of Rs 250 crore.
Under Bastia, the only person in the group to have been granted one of the four highest civilian awards, Reliance had also found oil in the block and made a sizeable discovery in block NEC-25, off the Orissa coast.