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'Mr Ambani, Mr Birla, share the pain of the middle class'

July 14, 2008
It is being said that your recent missives on issues like spectrum, windfall profit tax and scrapping the export-oriented unit status granted to Mukesh Ambani's petroleum refinery are due to your proximity to his estranged younger brother Anil. What do you say to that?

Let me be very clear that I am only echoing the views of Ratan Tata, the telecom regulator and the editor of Business Standard. If these views are identical to the views expressed by my friend Anil Ambani, what can I do?

On the question of levying a windfall profit tax, well, even the democratic presidential candidate Barak Hussain Obama favours such a tax.

Not only that, the International Energy Agency has come down heavily on the Centre's decision to award export-oriented unit status to the Reliance refinery. I could hardly be using the arguments put forward by the Left, the US democrats, the IEA and even regulatory agencies, all together for Anil Ambani's benefit.

Your proximity to Anil Ambani leads to a lot of talk whenever you intervene on policy matters.

If I had been talking of things that would lead to wealth creation for certain individuals, I would understand the hue and cry. Here I am saying that those who have profited so much must share the pain of the common man burdened by poverty. In the good old days, my erstwhile friend Mukesh Ambani used to say, "Papa tells us we must share our gains to relieve the pain of the people." So I say: Mr Ambani, Mr Birla, you must share the pain of the middle class. If Anil Ambani falls in this bracket, I will ask him as well. Let me make it clear that Anil is no one to guide me vis-a-vis the Congress. Yes, my future holidays or our evening dinner plans can be the subject of his likes and dislikes and that is my personal affair. I will say that I will be careful because of this perception of proximity with Anil and Amitabh Bachchan in accepting assignments pertaining to their interests and profession. That is, hypothetically, if ever, I become a minister I will not accept either the telecom or information and broadcasting ministry.

I am quite self-conscious that such accusations will be levelled against me because of the great love the media harbours for me. Therefore, I was the only one who, as a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee dealing with the second securities scam, gave gory details of my corporate connections to the chairman. I requested other members - Prem Gupta and Praful Patel (both ministers in the UPA) - to do the same. I don't know if they did.

Image: A file photograph of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani with then Vice Chairman Anil Ambani at the company's Annual General Meeting in 2004.
Photographs: STR/AFP/Getty Images

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