The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mukesh drops in at Sonia's

New Delhi, Dec. 4: Mukesh Ambani called on 10 Janpath today.

The elder scion of the Reliance empire, locked in a well-publicised tussle with brother Anil over control of the group, visited Sonia Gandhi in the afternoon after participating in a meeting of the Prime Minister's advisory council on trade and industry.

10 Janpath sources described the meeting with Sonia, which lasted less than 30 minutes, as a 'courtesy call'.

Mukesh, who met the Congress president for the first time since the rift between the brothers came out in the open, also called on finance minister P. Chidamabaram today. He had last meet Sonia in early November.

Officials said no significance should be attached to the meetings as they were routine.

Congress spokesperson Ambika Soni pointed out that many captains of industry met Sonia from time to time.

However, many see today's meetings as significant as these could signal to the Congress that Mukesh, who controls most of the Reliance empire, does not go along with Anil in his support of the party's arch rival in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party.

Anil was elected to the Rajya Sabha with Samajwadis' support in June. His entry into Parliament and the subsequent decision to invest Rs 11,000 crore in a power project in Samajwadi Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh are being cited among the reasons for the rift.

The Congress and the Samajwadis are locked in a political battle over the control of the vital heartland state that sends the most MPs to the Lok Sabha. Both parties have their eyes set on the same vote banks ' backward castes and minorities ' and the rivalry between them has escalated in recent months.

Sonia accuses the Samajwadis of discriminating against her constituency Rae Bareli and son Rahul's seat, Amethi.

Since the Congress came to power in May, Reliance Infocom has faced stiff penalties. Two key demands made by Reliance and other telecom firms that the broadband policy allow last mile linkage through any network, including state-owned ones, and for lowering of the access deficit charge, have not been accepted.

The free trade pact with Thailand, which came into effect in August, opened up Indian markets to many products that compete with RIL's yarn products.

At the same time, an expected Jute Control Order which would have diluted the compulsory use of jute in favour of synthetic material for food packaging has been held in abeyance. Instead, moves are on to make it stiffer. While Reliance does not make synthetic packaging material, it is the single largest source of raw material for such packaging.

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