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July jab in Reliance rift

Mumbai, Nov. 25: A sheaf of letters, emails and documents made available to the media today showed the rift between the Ambani brothers dates back to a board meeting of Reliance Industries on July 27.

The papers suggest that a move was initiated behind the back of Anil to foist Mukesh Ambani as the patriarch and 'final authority'.

But the authenticity of the documents could not be confirmed with either side.

Sources close to Reliance said they were 'spurious', but they declined to be quoted.

They reveal that a supplementary agenda was tagged on at the last minute ' without the concurrence of Anil as was usual practice ' to push through a proposal at the meeting to form a 'health, safety and environment committee'.

According to the papers, the innocuous proposal had an agenda: it sought to redefine the roles of Mukesh, Anil and the other executive directors. It said the chairman and managing director ' Mukesh ' would be the final authority and that Anil and all other executive directors would have to work under his command.

In a statement issued after the differences between the brothers came out in the open, Mukesh had given a similar hint: that there was no ambiguity about who was in charge. It was he.

Anil has not spoken on the subject at all. Today, a group company under his charge, Reliance Energy, was shaken by news of resignation of half-a-dozen directors.

He said the resignations would be considered at an 'appropriate time' and refused comment on the reported rift with his elder brother.

'I am not going to comment at this stage on any other issue. I have not spoken on other issues and I will continue in that mode. When the appropriate time comes, when it is necessary and, if necessary, I will make comments on other issues,' Anil said.

The documents include an anguished email purportedly written by Anil to Mukesh in which he pleaded with him not to disturb the arrangement created by Dhirubhai, suggesting their father meant them to be equal.

They show that the battle between the brothers had begun four months before Mukesh's November 18 statement to a TV channel where he spoke about certain 'ownership issues that were in the private domain'.

Until now, it was believed that it was a board meeting on October 27 that had brought matters to a head.

The documents show that Anil protested at the way in which the proposal to redefine powers was brought up at the July 27 meeting. He also challenged the minutes of the meeting which had claimed consensus.

'I could hardly be expected to vote in favour of a proposal that was prejudicial to my interests,' Anil says in one of several letters he purportedly wrote at that time. The letter contends that the issue was discussed for only two minutes and that no voting had taken place.

'The fact is that there was no vote and the question of resolution being passed unanimously thus does not arise,' the letter says.

Contrary to past practice, the minutes of that meeting were sent to other directors on the very same day for their ratification while Anil allegedly received it 48 hours later. In communications attributed to him, the younger sibling claims that the minutes of previous board meetings were usually sent close to a month after they were held.

Contrary to practice, the minutes were circulated by company secretary Vinod Ambani instead of Sethuraman, the head of the secretarial department.

Anil is believed to have written nine letters within three days of the meeting, questioning the minutes.

In public, Anil kept his mouth shut. 'I appreciate that the media have been waiting for long. There are long hours and there are going to be long days,' he said today.

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