The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pressure to toss Reliance out of IPCL race: Shourie

Mumbai, July 6: Disinvestment minister Arun Shourie today confessed to being under intense pressure to toss out Reliance from the race for Indian Petrochemicals Corporation (IPCL) before it outbid others.

“The pressures brought not just this transaction, but almost the whole divestment programme, to a halt. However, Reliance, which ultimately won the bid for IPCL, had quoted a price of Rs 231 per share as against market rate of Rs 100-120,” the minister said at the Dhirubhai Ambani Memorial Lecture in the city today.

“Throughout the period, Dhirubhai never contacted me as he knew what was going on from his sources,” said the divestment minister as he recounted how his ties with Dhirubhai turned “180 degrees” over the years.

The minister said the government had insisted on playing fair in the face of demands to disqualify the Ambanis. “If Reliance fell foul of those guidelines, then it must be disqualified, no matter what. If it did not, it must be allowed to bid, no matter what,” Shourie said.

After IPCL went to Reliance, Shourie said Dhirubhai rang him up to pat him for not giving in to the pressures. “I know what you have been put through, anyone else would have given up,” the minister recalled Dhirubhai as having told him later.

President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam presided over the event, which was organised to mark the first death anniversary of the founder of the Rs 81,000-crore group. It brought together the captains of the industry and political luminaries.

Amitabh Bachchan played the master of ceremonies as Kumar Mangalam Birla, Harsh Goenka, Adi Godrej and Murli Manohar Joshi were all ears to the speakers reliving the life and times of Dhirubhai.

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