Tuesday, July 15, 2008

PM-Mukesh Ambani meet: PMO denies any political angle


NEW DELHI: In the face of criticism about his meeting with Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office on Tuesday brushed aside suggestions that PM was interfering in the feud between Ambani brothers. ( Watch )

"People of India know Manmohan Singh better than to believe that he would get involved in corporate affairs" Singh's Media Advisor Sanjaya Baru said.

On the controversy regarding meeting with Mukesh, Baru said that, "PM meets corporate leaders all the time to discuss national economic issues as any leader of modern economy would."

The meeting became the cynosure of the media and political circles in the face of suggestions from UPA's new ally Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh asking the Prime Minister to intervene to bring about a rapprochement between the two brothers.

While terming as "disgusting" the RIL's opposition to Anil Ambani group firm RCom's potential deal with South African telecom giant MTN, Amar Singh had apparently wanted PM's intervention to remove the perceived obstacles.

The SP leader had also targeted RIL, demanding windfall profit tax on private oil companies and said that he would expect the Prime Minister to take the issues raised by him as seriously as much as the support for the nuclear deal.

I am not a corporate negotiator: Amar Singh

Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh has also denied media speculations that he is trying to strike a bargain with the UPA government in favour of industrialist and his close friend Anil Ambani. ( Watch )

Amar Singh said, "I am not a negotiator for corporate deals."

CPM slams UPA over PM-Mukesh Ambani meet

The CPM has reacted sharply over the meeting between corporate giant Mukesh Ambani with the Prime Minister. The party said that the PMO should not become the conciliation office for warring corporates however desperate the ruling party may be to retain power.

The CPM alleged that the corporate houses are openly lobbying for their interests in the run up to the July 22 confidence vote.
Mukesh Ambani had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other important government functionaries on Monday amid rising government anxiety about the raging Ambani feud adversely impacting the government's prospects in the impending trial of strength over the nuclear deal.

Mukesh's meetings with PM and others, including Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, came in the backdrop of a complaint to the Prime Minister and Congress party leaders from the Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh about the machinations of "one particular corporate group trying to poach his party MPs for the benefit of the BJP-Left-BSP combine."

Fears that the fight between Ambanis may escalate is largely due to the perception that the Samajwadi Party may be keen to use its newly-acquired leverage with the ruling coalition for the benefit of Anil Ambani, with whom its leaders, particularly Amar Singh, are close.

Mukesh is also learned to have met Ahmad Patel, but there was no confirmation. Reliance sources refused to confirm or deny, saying "no comment". Pressed further, they stated "we are not supposed to comment on the engagements of our chairman."

The back-to-back engagements followed growing perception that SP's dramatic entry into the UPA tent may change power equations to Anil's advantage. The perception has been reinforced by Amar Singh's strident campaign for the imposition of a "windfall tax" on private petroleum refiners like Mukesh's Reliance Petroleum Limited.

According to agency reports, the Reliance honcho argued strongly against the introduction of a "windfall tax" in his meeting with the PM.

Last week, Amar Singh had made a strong pitch for the PM to work for a truce between feuding Ambani brothers, arguing it was necessary for the sake of country's economy. In political circles, this was seen as a move to nudge Mukesh to the negotiating table over the several disputes between the brothers, including the one over Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Communication's bid to acquire South African giant MTN

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