This is one confession that is likely invite more questions on ministerial propriety than praise. In rare display of candour, Shipping and Transport Minister TR Baalu has admitted in Rajya Sabha that he had “used” his official position to seek allocation of gas for a company owned by his family, which had also been headed by him in the past.
Provoked by AIADMK members who have been accusing him of misusing his office, Baalu said: “Yes, I put in a word with the Petroleum Minister after the UPA Government was formed in 2004. What is wrong in it?”
He said he acted to save his companies from closure on the request of many of the 40,000 shareholders and employees. Baalu was responding to a mention by AIADMK parliamentary party leader member V. Maitreyan.
The minister justified his action saying the NDA had stopped supplies to his firms as his party — the DMK — had left the BJP-led alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2004. Without mincing details, Baalu said he was the managing director of King Chemicals and King High Power before he became a minister in the NDA government.
“The companies had entered into an agreement with the public sector Gas Authority of India Limited for allocation of 10,000 cubic metre gas,” he said. “However, within days of my resignation from the NDA government in 2003, the gas allocation was cancelled. The BJP-led NDA wanted to take revenge after I quit the ministry and the alliance on orders from my leader.”
Baalu was provoked after Maitreyan said the minister had misused his official position to get gas for the two companies owned by his sons and their wives.
Maitreyan said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should inform the House about what he thought of Baalu’s action since he had asked the CBI to make preliminary inquiries. Baalu’s firms are said to have figured as defaulters of bank loans.
Significantly, Maitreyan was allowed by Congress’s P.J. Kurien, who was in the chair, to make his submission after DMK members led by Tirchi Siva objected to the AIADMK member’s statement.
In the Lok Sabha, Baalu faced the heat with many members complaining about lack of ambulances, cranes and other facilities on national highways that witness frequent accidents.
Baalu’s defence that his ministry had done much to provide such facilities to various states did not satisfy the members. Speaker Somnath Chatterjee too said: “The minister should feel the sense of the House. There is a feeling that there are no adequate measures taken in this regard. Every member has complaints on highways.”