The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Telecom tops Anil agenda in Delhi

New Delhi, June 22: After having sorted out his quarrel with elder brother Mukesh over the last weekend, Anil Ambani, also a Samajwadi Party MP, flew into the capital today to build bridges with the government.

He held discussions with President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, home minister Shivraj Patil, finance minister P. Chidambaram, plan panel deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, company affairs minister Prem Chand Gupta and IT and telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran.

Although the Anil camp described it as a courtesy visit, the series of meetings with political heavyweights were seen as part of an exercise to build bridges and, in some cases, reactivate links with the most powerful in the country.

The Congress party, which heads the coalition government, has given him cold vibes ever since he inched closer to Samajwadi Party boss Mulayam Singh Yadav. Some of the government decisions ' such as the one asking Reliance Infocomm to pay a Rs 150-crore penalty for routing long-distance calls as local ones ' were seen as moves hurting his business interests.

Through the quarrel between the two brothers over division of the business built up by their father Dhirubhai, observers saw elder brother Mukesh as being closer to the powers that be in Delhi. He held several meetings with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in the months that the sibling spat grabbed national headlines. Gandhi, also the ruling alliance’s chairperson, hired his business jet to fly to Russia on an official visit. Anil, on the other hand, met Gandhi only once, just after elections last year swept her alliance to power.

Most of the meetings today took 30 to 45 minutes. P. C. Gupta, the minister overseeing company affairs whom Anil also met this afternoon, later said the registrar of companies will continue with its probe into corporate governance issues raised by the Ambani junior.

The younger Ambani and his lieutenant, Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, had at the height of the ownership dispute raised several issues. One of these was related to the sale of IPCL shares by Reliance Capital, a company that ultimately went to Anil as part of the settlement.

Sources said Anil’s focus in the coming years would be Reliance Infocomm. That could, perhaps, explain why his longest meeting, of 50 minutes, was with communications minister Dayanidhi Maran. He is believed to have discussed a wide range of issues, such as spectrum policy and rural telephony, with the minister.

“Both Ambani and Maran were in the room for major part of their interaction, without any aides. However, the minister did stress on the importance of rural rollouts,” sources in the communications ministry said.

Anil is believed to have promised the minister that his will be the best telecom network in 21 circles.

Maran is understood to have cautioned Anil not to blindly follow solutions offered by his executives, which turn out to be wrong. He was also told to evaluate marketing policies closely, especially those creating regulatory problems.

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