Reddy on his toes to tackle oil min issues

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New Delhi, Jan 20 (PTI) For S Jaipal Reddy, who replacedMurli Deora as Oil Minister, the immediate task at thenation''s highest economic turnover ministry is clearly cutout-- avoiding fuel price hikes and deciding on the sector''sbiggest acquisition.

Reddy, who moved from urban development to the oilministry, got down to tackling the task straightaway with abrainstorming session with senior ministry officials today.

"This is not a new government...I am a new minister inthe old government. I am morally and politically accountablefor all the policies and decisions of my predecessor. Theywere collective decisions of the Cabinet," he said lastevening.

With rumours doing the rounds that Congress party brasswere not happy with Deora and his junior Jitin Prasada overthe last week''s Rs 2.50 per litre hike in petrol prices, Reddysaid spiralling international oil prices "was a challenge."

Oil PSUs, who face Rs 73,600 crore of revenue loss thisfiscal, are pressing for a hike in diesel and LPG prices, butReddy says "a balance" will have to be struck between how muchconsumers can pay and the fiscal needs of oil companies.

"The task confronting the petroleum ministry and thecountry are common. We cannot allow oil companies to bleed.

They cannot afford it. Nor can we allow huge hikes in dieselprices, as they have cascading effect (on inflation). Theburden has to be shared by all," he said.

Despite last week''s price hike - the seventh since June,oil firms lose Rs 1.22 a litre on petrol. Besides, they loseRs 7 a litre on diesel, Rs 366.28 on LPG and Rs 19.60 a litreon kerosene.

The Congress heavyweight said decisions on such issueswould be taken at the Cabinet-level.

He will also have to quickly decide on giving approval tobillionaire Anil Agarwal-run Vedanta Resources'' the USD 9.6billion acquisition of Cairn India.

The Prime Minister''s Office (PMO) had set month end asthe deadline for deciding on the issue which has been hangingsince August last year.

Reddy takes over as Petroleum Minister at a time whenalmost all the public sector companies under the ministry areseeing a change at the top.

Acting Chairman B M Bansal will retire from Indian OilCorp, the nation''s largest oil firm, by month-end while R KSingh is barely few months old at the helms of BPCL.

The nation''s highest profit making firm Oil and NaturalGas Corp (ONGC) too will be headless with current Chairman andManaging Director R S Sharma superannuating at month-end.

Replacements for Bansal and Sharma are unlikely to be inplace by February 1, as their files are struck in red tape.

Also, Reddy will have a new deputy in RPN Singh afteryesterday''s cabinet reshuffle also moved Prasada to Ministryof Road Transport and Highways. .

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