If events at the petroleum ministry on Monday morning are anything to go by, S. Jaipal Reddy is an unhappy man. Reddy did not show up at the ministry to hand over charge to Veerappa Moily, his successor as petroleum minister. Instead, his deputy, R.P.N. Singh, supervised the transition. Reddy was given charge of the science and technology ministry in Sunday's cabinet reshuffle. Singh has been made the Minister of state for home affairs.
Reddy is considered an upright and tough task master. Television news channels have been suggesting that he was removed under pressure from corporate lobbies. Reddy is said to have sought a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday before taking over as the new Science and Technology minister. Sources say that he wanted to discuss the circumstances of his removal.
Reddy took over as petroleum minister on January 20, 2011, amidst allegations that his predecessor, Murli Deora, was favouring Reliance Industries. During his 21-month tenure, he took on Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), the first time any minister had done so after Mukesh Ambani took charge of the company.
He refused to clear the expenditure of RIL's iconic KG D6 gas field, off the Andhra Pradesh coast. He held back clearances required for commercial production from RIL's blocks in the Mahanadi basin in Orissa and Kaveri basin in the south. Reddy also delayed clearance of RIL's deal with BP, which included a 30 per cent stake sale to BP in 23 blocks, including KG-D6, for $7.2 billion.
In September, Reddy refused to revise the price of gas from KG D6 and from the company's coalbed methane blocks in Sohagpur, Madhya Pradesh.
RIL's share price ended the day at Rs 811.2 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, having registered a 1.5 per cent increase.
*Moily defended Reddy, saying: "It was neither a demotion for me nor for him. He has done good work." He met Reddy in the afternoon. Sources say Moily tried to convince him to join the new ministry.
Meanwhile, social activist turned politician Arvind Kejriwal took a dig at the government saying Reddy had paid the price for trying to clean up the oil ministry.
*An earlier version of this story erroneously identified Moily as Singh