Why Has Arvind Kejriwal Abandoned the Investigation He Launched Against Mukesh Ambani Last Year?

19 May 2015
Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi and the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) addressed the media during a press conference in New Delhi on 11 February 2014. At the press conference, Kejriwal asserted that members of the central government and Reliance Industries Limited had colluded to create an artificial scarcity of natural gas.
Adnan Abidi/ REUTERS

On 11 February 2014, three days before resigning as the chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal held a press conference in New Delhi. Kejriwal sat behind a table cluttered with microphones alongside Manish Sisodia, a close aide and now the deputy chief minister of Delhi. He spoke, as the cameras flashed and recorders rolled, of a “decisive battle” that he was going to fight for the people of this country: “The battle against corruption.”

At the press conference, Kejriwal announced that a complaint had been filed in the Anti-Corruption Bureau by EAS Sharma, the former revenue secretary; TSR Subramaniam, the former cabinet secretary; Kamini Jaiswal, a senior advocate with the Supreme Court; and Admiral RH Tahiliani, the former chief of Naval staff. Citing the complaint, Kejriwal alleged that the central government and Reliance Industries Limited had colluded to create an artificial scarcity of natural gas produced in the Krishna Godavari gas basin, thereby increasing its price across the country.

He went on to say that the ACB had been directed to pursue criminal charges and file a First Information Report (FIR) against those named in the complaint: Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of RIL; Veerapa Moily, who was the union minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas when the allegation was made; Murli Deora, Moily’s predecessor; and VK Sibal, the former Director General of Hydrocarbons. “Hamara manana hai ki mehangai humare desh mein bhrashtachaar ki wajah se ho rahi hai”—our belief is that there are high prices in the country only due to the problem of corruption—Kejriwal told the media. “Hummein is bhrashtachaar se sakti se nipatna hoga”—and we will have to deal with this corruption sternly.

According to the FIR which was filed on the same day, the cost of production of gas in the KG basin is much less than $2.34 per mmBtu (one million british thermal units, a measure for the energy content in fuel), the rate at which RIL had agreed to supply 132 trillion units of gas per annum to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) for 17 years in June 2004 when Mani Shankar Aiyyar was the union minister for petroleum. Two years later in 2006, when Murli Deora replaced Aiyyar, the ministry approved a new plan that would allow Reliance to claim a production cost of $8.4 per mmBtu—four times the price agreed upon earlier. “The gas price in India has become one of the highest in the world,” the FIR noted.

On the same day that the FIR was filed, Reliance released a press statement and called the allegations “shocking,” while maintaining that the "complaint and each of the allegations on the basis of which the Delhi government took the decision are completely baseless and devoid of any merit or substance." Three days later, Kejriwal made a dramatic exit from his post on 14 February 2014 over his inability to introduce the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill.

Atul Dev is a staff writer at The Caravan.