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Anil breaks lull with stormy attack on Mukesh aide

Mumbai, Jan. 3: The turrets on Battleship Ambani are blazing away in the new year.

Anil Ambani today resigned as vice-chairman and director of petrochemicals giant IPCL, now in Reliance's fold, and blamed Anand Jain, a confidant and schoolmate of brother Mukesh, for having to take the decision.

Calling Jain a 'modern-day Shakuni' in his resignation letter, Anil accused him of leading the conspiracy to divide the brothers and playing a negative role in their family affairs.

'I consider it against my dignity, self-respect and self-esteem to be on the same board as Anand Jain,' the younger Ambani scion said in a letter. Mukesh is the chairman of IPCL, which the group acquired when the government put it up for sale in 2002.

Anil said Jain's official dealings with Reliance were 'improper and contrary to ethical norms and this is impacting the business image and reputation of our company'.

'Anand Jain is working against the interests of the Ambani family and playing an obstructive and negative role in our affairs,' he told his brother in the letter.

Anil also accused Jain, who has no official position in Reliance Industries (RIL), of spearheading the campaign of 'character assassination' against him.

In late November, Anil had written a letter to Reliance Energy employees in which he had recalled his father Dhirubhai's advice to 'watch out for the 3Cs ' chamchas, chelas and cronies', which was seen as a dig at brother Mukesh. But this is the first time he has targeted someone in Mukesh's coterie.

RIL officials confirmed that Mukesh had received the resignation letter.

Jain refused to respond to the accusations, but observers said the latest twist in the raging battle would heighten the differences between the Ambani siblings.

Sources at RIL said Jain was appointed as a director of IPCL during the lifetime of Dhirubhai, while Anil was taken in by Mukesh later and made vice-chairman.

Anil's move had no impact on the IPCL scrip, which ended higher at Rs 191.70, a gain of 5.1 per cent over Friday's close.

The sources said that in May 2002 when Reliance acquired IPCL, Dhirubhai had nominated five directors, with Mukesh as the chairman.

Corporate folklore has it that Dhirubhai used to fondly refer to Jain as his third son, a fact that Anil's camp disputes vehemently.

Jain was a classmate of Mukesh at Hill Grange High School in Mumbai. Later, he studied commerce at Sydenham College of Commerce. He became associated with the Reliance group in 1981 when Mukesh returned to India from Stanford University.

Jain has done a course in risk management from London Business School.

Anil has embarked on a no-holds-barred fight and declared his intentions clearly by questioning the motives behind RIL's share buyback proposal when the board met on December 27. He was badly outnumbered at that meeting with the 10 other directors backing Mukesh.

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