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10, Janpath Doors Are Shut

Cosying up with the wrong political parties has cost Anil dear

10, Janpath Doors Are Shut
10, Janpath Doors Are Shut
On May 12, 2004, a day before counting began for the general elections, Anil Ambani called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi at 10, Janpath, triggering off speculation that the party might well be set to form the next government. Later that month, after the government was formed, an official known for his proximity to Sonia received a ‘friendly’ call on a private number from Anil Ambani, reminding him of the last encounter they had had.

It almost seemed as though the stage was being set for a friendship to revive. But in the months to follow, neither Soniai—UPA chairperson and head of the PM’s National Advisory Council—nor Prime Minister Manmohan Singh showed any special inclination towards the Ambanis. This meant no special favours for the corporate. "While there is no witch-hunt," says a Reliance source, he confirms, "there will be none of the special favours on which the company thrived in its growing years."

Anil Ambani’s links with the Samajwadi Party and Amitabh Bachchan haven’t helped things either. Says a UP cadre IAS officer, "When Anil grew close to the SP, it was on the basis of the same calculation Mulayam Singh Yadav went to the polls—that the SP would be the deciding factor in the next government. That didn’t happen." So, when Anil Ambani did go calling on 10, Janpath, it was too little, too late. Elder brother Mukesh, conversely, still retains an equation with the Congress and 10, Janpath. Says a party MP, "This government may not favour the Ambanis, but in the family power struggle, it is behind Mukesh—the leadership appreciates his ‘political neutrality’."

With 10, Janpath and the pmo showing no signs of being wooed, even the handful of central ministers—including defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, textiles minister Shankersinh Vaghela, commerce minister Kamal Nath and Congress functionaries Ahmed Patel and Digvijay Singh—known for their friendship with the Ambanis are not willing to stick their necks out for them.

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