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Oil boss on the skids

New Delhi, May 24: Subir Raha, the ONGC chairman who fought a very public battle with former petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, has been denied a two-year extension till he turns 60 by the government.

Raha’s five-year contract ended today.

Although a formal letter has not been issued yet since the file has not come back from the Prime Minister, the petroleum ministry has rejected his case.

Aiyar ' and now-retired petroleum secretary S.C. Tripathi ' left big blots on Raha’s confidential reports by describing his performance to be “poor”.

Sources said the fire in the Mumbai High north oil platform in which several lives were lost and ONGC’s failure to make a major oil or gas strike during Raha’s tenure were held against him.

Aiyar has also stated that Raha had converted ONGC into a one-man show and was not a team player.

Raha, who had not been attending office for the past week as he had jaundice, came to the ONGC corporate headquarters today but did not receive a letter from the ministry on the last day of his tenure.

Officers close to Raha were disappointed, but claimed that “there was still a ray of hope as the comments from the PMO were awaited”.

Raha has announced major projects for states like Karnataka and these officials had expected the beneficiary chief ministers to bail him out.

Aiyar had highlighted Raha’s “excessive” interest in the oil refining and petrochemicals business at the cost of ONGC’s core business of exploration as a major weakness in his performance.

Relations between the two had soured over the issue, triggering several conflicts ranging from the appointment of additional directors on the board of ONGC to fixing crude production targets.

Although Aiyar was eased out of the ministry and Tripathi retired recently, their annual confidential reports played an important part in judging Raha’s performance as their successors have not spent enough time yet in their posts.

Under Raha’s tenure, ONGC expanded its overseas presence where it has committed investments of $4.5 billion in properties in 14 countries.

The acquisition and turnaround of loss-making Mangalore Refinery was another success story.

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