It’s ironical that none of the Andhra political parties are staging demonstrations against the gas price hike. The YSR Congress issued one press statement; the Telugu Desam Party held a rally; the Congress remained mum, as did the TRS. The weakened Left seems to have little energy or drive to stage protests. With the schedule for panchayat elections having been announced (late July) and a decision on Telangana in the offing, parties have other priorities.
It wasn’t always like this. During the course of an interview to Outlook in 2006, the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy had gritted his teeth when asked about his tussle with Reliance over reserves in KG basin and a fair allotment to Andhra Pradesh. “Gas is a natural resource, a property of the nation, not of a private company’s,” he had said. YSR said he raised the issue in the assembly as Opposition leader during Chandrababu Naidu’s rule, when the KG basin blocks came up for auction. At the time, the Gujarat government had participated in the bidding. YSR argued that by not acting similarly, the TDP government compromised the state’s future.
As a CM who had almost single-handedly brought the Congress to power in 2004 on a promise of free power to farmers, a share in the gas in KG basin was crucial to YSR. In fact, such was the tussle between Reliance and YSR that files related to laying of pipelines moved at snail’s pace. He even spoke of leading an all-party delegation to the PM to seek a lower gas price for AP.
But in 2008, YSR said he would not pursue the fight for a reduction in gas price. “The Centre is bound by a contractual obligation under the New Exploration Licensing policy,” he explained. “There are fears that amendments now would hamper fresh investments,” he had said. YSR then dismissed reports that Reliance would face trouble while laying pipelines in Kakinada explaining that he was only concerned about a share in gas and special price for the state.
In 2009, a re-elected YSR government reopened the issue. He wrote a letter to the PMO in July, requesting that Andhra should get at least 10 per cent of the gas allocation on a preferential basis. He asked the PM to defend the Centre’s right to allocate national resources, as the legal battle between Mukesh Ambani’s RIL and Anil Ambani’s Reliance Natural Resources Ltd would hurt the common man. The Bombay High Court at the time had suggested that the two brothers could approach their mother for a solution, to which YSR had remarked that KG basin gas would be allotted to states by the Centre and not by Ambani brothers or their mother.
By Madhavi Tata in Hyderabad