Is the much-talked about business-friendliness of the Gujarat government just a result of deftly designed public relations exercise?
More reasons are emerging to believe so, latest being the much delayed stake sale of Gujarat Gas.
A report in Times of India says a minister in the state government may have arm-twisted state-based private companies to stop them from bidding for Gujarat Gas stake to enable a state public sector company get the stake cheaper.
Gujarat Gas is a company controlled by British Gas and is engaged in gas distribution. The UK company has been looking to sell its over 65 percent stake in Gujarat Gas for more than one year now.
According to the report, British Gas is exiting the company and the state is under duress as the state government filed a complaint against it in the Competition Commission alleging “overcharging” in Surat.
Until now, media reports had suggested that the inordinate delay in stake sale was due to the high price British Gas was seeking for the stake.
According to the report, Adani Power and Torrent Power, both state-based firms, were even ready to pay the high premium for the stake as they are desperately in need of the fuel. Chiefs of both the companies were summoned by bureaucrats and ordered not to bid for the stake.
The move was aimed at giving a undue advantage to state public sector unit Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation.
According to a report in the Business Standard, a consortium led by GSPC has finally managed to coerce British Gas to bring down the asking price from Rs 4,500 crore.
“BG has proposed a new price to us but we have to discuss this with members and take a call,” a senior member of the consortium was quoted as saying, without disclosing the price BG had quoted.
And with only one bidder left in the fray, British Gas has no option but to concede to the state government’s pressure tactics.
“Whatever be the case, we have not done anything against the interest of Gujarat government,” minister of state for energy Saurabh Dalal has been quoted as saying in the ToI report.
True. Gujarat government means business, but for itself.
If such moves by government is coercing private companies to pull out investments from the state, how is Modi different from Mamata?!