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Headless GSPC, propagated as Gujarat's bluechip PSU, sending strong feelers: Company is in real mess

Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel
By Our Special Correspondent
Gujarat government's premier public sector undertaking (PSU), Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) – which shot into prominence in 2005 following its loud claims of 20 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas in the offshore oil-and-gas fields it was exploring in the KG Basin, Andhra Pradesh – appears to be losing sheen now within the government. Things have reached to such a point that not only the GSPC does not have a full-time managing-director (MD), it has no chairman worth the name ever since Varesh Sinha retired as Gujarat chief secretary in October-end 2014.
Notably, while the 20 tcf balloon exploded quite some time back, with even GSPC insiders quietly but strongly saying that the company’s KG Basin fields did no more than 2 tcf gas, out of which just one-third was recoverable, more recently, it was forced to withdraw from its costly foreign misadventure in Egypt, where it had taken up five blocks. It still has a few blocks abroad, in Yemen, Australia and Indonesia, but the GSPC has “little interest” in them, and the question currently being posed is: How to overcome GSPC’s huge debts resulting from haphazard claims and expansions?
Energy minister Saurabh Patel
Already, the message gone round, that a headless GSPC without a chairman and full-time MD suggests it is no more a bluechip company, which it was in 2005. Things have deteriorated to such an extent that, usually, the incumbent Gujarat chief secretary is made chairman of PSU in case the political leadership is unable to find one. But this time, D Jagatheesa Pandian, chief secretary, has not been given the chance. Pandian served as its MD for the longest period – nearly nine years ending 2009. An insider said, “Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, despite her wish, is unable to cleared Pandian’s name.”
Meanwhile, there is a strong buzz that a major reasons for this is, Gujarat energy minister Saurabh Patel, who is known to the most corporate-friendly face of the Cabinet, has begun forwarding the name of Atanu Chakrobortty, state industries secretary, who also holds additional charge of GSPC MD. Emerged as No 2, the minister has considerable say in bureaucratic appointments, and “it was his suggestion which ensured that Pandian was not allowed to become GSPC chairman”, a source said, adding, “The minister is pushing for Chakrabortty as its chairman-cum-managing director (CMD).”
Chief secretary D Jagatheesa Pandian
The minister is said to be of the view that Chakrabortty is the only person who can deliver and take the top PSU out of its mess. Yet, things are stuck, with the chief minister failing to “clear” any name. It is said, even the name of MM Shrivastav – former finance secretary who is now chairman of one of the GSPC subsidiaries looking after installation of oil-and-gas pipelines across India, Gujarat State Petronet Ltd (GSPL) -- was suggested as next GSPC chairman. “However, the minister did not want him either”, the source pointed out.
Saurabh Patel's “choice” of Chakrabortty has attracted considerable curiosity in state babudom, as Chakrobortty and Pandian had never got along well in the past. “If more recently the two did not agree on several issues, involved as both were in organizing the Vibrant Gujarat business summit (January 11-12), one has only to remember how Chakrabortty’s appointment as joint MD was mysteriously scuttled in 2007 when Pandian was MD”, a senior bureaucrat said, requesting anonymity.
“In the last reshuffle, it was almost certain that MK Das, joint MD of GSPC, would be elevated as MD, but Saurabh Patel put his foot down, and ensured instead of Das, Chakrabortty should be given the additional charge as MD”, the bureaucrat said, adding, “Despite the minister’s choice, if Pandian manages to get his appointment done this would suggest that he has more clout than the energy minister. Known for his excellent rapport with politicians in Delhi, Pandian ensured he became chief secretary two months ago, setting side claims of his senior SK Nanda.”

Comments

A Govt official said…
You appear to have hit the true story... I read somewhere, following Gujarat CM's declaration of Rs 25 lakh crore investment, minister Saurabh Patel, in charge of industries, said said he has no breakup; chief secretary says ask the industries minister; and industries secretary says he has no comment
Indian said…
GSPC KG ballon brusted long back....no future unless ongc took some stake in project....orelse it will become soon become in sick PSU's list officially....

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