Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily took everyone by surprise when on Friday he said that petroleum ministers are threatened by oil import lobbies to deter them from taking decisions that could cut the $160 billion import bill.
The minister, who is under fire for proposing a steep hike in natural gas prices, said he was trying to revive investor sentiment by giving a "right" price for gas.
A price correction will help attract investments in the stagnant oil and gas exploration and will lead to higher domestic output and lesser reliance on imports, he said.
"I am telling you with all sense of responsibility (that) we are floating in oil and gas in this country. And we don't explore it. We put every obstruction not to do it. There is bureaucratic obstructions and delays.
"And also there are other lobbies. They don't want us to stop imports. There are some lobbies who are working on that.
Every minister is threatened many a times. Every minister who occupies this position is threatened," he said.
He claimed that decision making process is "obstructed (and) aborted", but hastened to add that "Moily cannot be threatened."
Moily however refused to name anyone or identify anyone who may have directly or indirectly threatened ministers.
"History will speak about it. It is for you to judge," he said, adding oil imports will rise dramatically if domestic production is not incentivised through right pricing policy.
His statement however drew sharp reactions with Dasgupta alleging that the minister was lying and concocting false story to help Reliance gain from his proposal on gas prices.
"This is a loot and he is a liar if he speaks of any import pressure," Dasgupta said adding public sector firms are the only firms importing oil and gas in the country and pressure that Moily is talking about must be from them, which cannot be the case.
Former Petroleum Minister and senior BJP leader Ram Naik said no pressure was ever brought on him during his five year tenure from 1999 to 2004, and Moily should name lobbies that brought pressure on him or his predecessors, S Jaipal Reddy, Murli Deora or Mani Shankar Aiyar.
With PTI inputs