Janata Dal(U) MP NK Singh denied former Union minister Arun Shourie’s charge that he influenced the choice of BJP speakers in Parliament on the 2009 Budget and lobbied for tax breaks for the gas sector to help industrialist Mukesh Ambani. “On the substance of the (tax) concession, as revenue secretary when my views would have mattered, I rejected the proposed tax breaks being extended to gas,” Singh said.
Referring to the conversation with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, which Shourie cited in a TV interview to make the allegation, Singh said “any such conversation was more in the nature of a social chat”. Singh said, as the revenue secretary, he had written to then principal secretary to PM and then petroleum secretary Vijay Kelkar giving his “rejection order”.
He said, “After leaving the government and when I was in no position to help, it was represented that the petroleum ministry had assured investors during road shows that such tax incentives would be available and on the basis of which investments were garnered in the gas sector. It was felt (by the petroleum ministry) that contractual obligations should be honoured and retrospective withdrawal was contrary to sovereign commitments made.”
Rejecting Shourie’s allegation that Singh had replaced him with Venkaiah Naidu as BJP speaker on the budget, the
JD-U leader said, “the selection of who should open the debate... is not a matter which could be decided by me. It was for the BJP leadership to take the decision...”
“At no stage, and this can be ascertained from the BJP leadership, did I try to influence their (BJP’s) choice of speakers, much less the contents of their speech.”