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'No substance in Aam Aadmi Party contention on gas prices'
Saturday June 7, 2014 5:00 PM, IANS

As the stage appeared set for a review of natural gas prices, Reliance Industries has denied receipt of any letter from the Narendra Modi government assuring a hike in prices of this hydrocarbon as charged by the Aam Admi Party (AAP).

Even oil ministry officials also said no letter of assurance was issued by it since the new government took charge mast month, reacting to the AAP's letter demanding that the new government makes public "its letter to the Reliance Industries" on gas prices.

"The last communication received was on April 21, 2014 in response to our letter of April 3, 2014," a Reliance spokesperson said in an e-mail response to a query from IANS but refrained from revealing its content.

"Propriety demands that details of such confidential correspondence should be accessed from the sender," the spokesperson said, even as oil ministry officials said it was a routine clarificatory note to contractors.

Making it clear that no communication was made to Reliance after the Narendra Modi government took over last month, oil ministry officials said only a clarification was given in April on the status quo that was ordered by the Election Commission.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was set to notify the revised gas prices from April, since the earlier price contract had expired on March 31. But the Election Commission had asked it to maintain status quo till elections were over.

A ministry official said on condition of anonymity that a clarification was issued in view of the commission's order, explaining that the earliest period for which the new gas prices could be notified by the government was for the quarter beginning July 1.

"As per our terms, gas prices are notified in advance for each quarter. Without that a new price can't take effect. Since we were asked to keep the notification in abeyance, it was natural the earliest we could act upon was for quarter starting July," he said.

The Reliance spokesperson was asked: "What has been the further development, if any, in terms of the status quo on gas pricing called for by the Election Commission, by asking the government to put the proposed notification on the decision to hike prices on hold?"

The reply: "Our contention has always been that the reference to EC was wrong and the process thereafter served partisan interests and the complainant's political motives."

And further asked for the company's response to the allegations levelled by Aam Aadmi Party, the spokesperson said in the e-mail reply: "Every single charge, claim, half-truth has been countered in the court of the people of India."

Gas price revision was a matter of intense speculation Friday and sent all oil stocks soaring. On the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), among all the Sensex stocks, that of the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp gained the most, up a whopping 10.5 percent.

Another state-run firm, GAIL India, was next with a gain of 7.5 percent, while the scrip of Reliance Industries moved up by 2.97 percent. The sector-specific oil and gas index of the exchange itself shot up by 5.73 percent on the eventful Friday.

The oil ministry is expected to approach the Prime Minister's Office next week.

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