My Press Brief at AICC – 22 Jan 2018 (English)

Dr. Singhvi said the Modi Government is indulging in cyclical economics. ONGC and HPCL merger is a classic case of accounting jugglery and will only add to the rising fiscal deficit. It is another way of using left-hand right-hand slieght of hand to largely fool the Indian public.

 First the Modi Government has reaped a wind fall gain of almost Rs. 6 lakh crores, is the gain it has had by sheer taxation of Petrol and diesel namely if it had passed on the benefit to the public of India of the actual international oil prices at which India imports which is the price given to Indian public either directly or by subsidy. Then the Indian public would have gained by Rs. 6 lakh crores. Instead the Modi Government has taxed and collected tax from Indian public of Rs.6 lakhs crore and has not passed on the benefit of low prevailing international prices for over 3-1/2 years to the Indian public. On the one hand, international prices and declined and declined to a low of 47 odd US Dollars, it is has not come back to some 62 US Dollars. During our time, it was 110 US$. At one time even at 150 US$ and yet while the international prices are in the ranges of US$ 45, 47, 50 and 62 , the Modi Government has not passed on that benefit and prices are falling but prices of petroleum products in India are rising.

 For the first time in India’s history, I want to make two points in the context of oil and petroleum – Point No. 1 – for the first time in India’s history a cash rich Government controlled virtually 100% Government controlled ONGC is going to take a loan to buy the Government owned shares in another Government controlled company HPCL. So Government’s own shares in ONGC, it also owns shares in HPCL. To do accounting jugglery, it is ONGC in all probability with the loan of odd Rs. 30,000 crores. So ONGC will take a loan of Rs. 30,000 crore, pay it to the Government of India to buy the shares of Government of India in HPCL. Why – so the Government of India can fool the public of India by showing that we, the Government of India has not taken loan. Our deficit look good, our borrowings look small but they forget that the borrowing is done by the 100% Government of India Company called ONGC and this is being done (1) to make the balance sheet of the Government of India before Budget look alright that we have not increased up borrowing. Forget whether the government of India has increased its borrowing or ONGC increases the borrowings, the money comes from our pockets.

 Secondly, it is done to show that the disinvestment target of the Government of India is met. As you perhaps know in the first year the Modi Government they missed the disinvestment target by 44%, they did disinvestment less by 44%. In the second year, they did it less by 41 or 42%. In the third year, they missed and did less by 20% i.e. 2016-17. Now in this year, to show that we have done some disinvestment, they are technically disinvesting their shares of HPCL but disinvesting it into another public sector ONGC. I hope I am clear. Is this the disinvestment you are talking about or thinking about? This is the usual Modi Government’s style of jugglery.

 Thirdly, this is done by getting ONGC to take a loan because the ONGC Chairman Shri Shekhar announced two days ago that the borrowing limits of ONGC are increased to Rs. 35,000 crore is our allegation and a fair guess that this borrowing limit of ONGC is increased to enable ONGC to take loans of up to Rs. 30-35,000 crores. The purpose of taking the loan is to buy the Government of India shares of the Government of India which the Government of India owns in HPCL.

 Fourthly, what is the change on the ground? Does it really have a change in the ground? On the ground, the HPCL which is either a refinery agency or a trading agency in oil remains the same. On the ground ONGC remains the same, it is an exploration agency, oil extraction agency. All that will happen is that HPCL instead of independent company will become either a department or a subsidiary of ONGC. What synergy is achieved by this? Nothing but jugglery – if ONGC and BPCL had synergies, then for the last so many decades, why was ONGC and BPCL separate companies because they do different activities and they were continue to do different activities. Only difference is that ONGC will own BPCL. That is all that will happen – why Shri Modi’s Government wants the balance sheet to look better that Government of India has not borrowed plus we have fulfilled our disinvestment target.

 Fifthly, first point just I started about petrol and diesel – the lager petroleum sector products issue must be remembered from 2013-14 when the oil price was 105. 52 US$ per barrel and from 200-4 to 2014 I remind you that we gave you such fantastic growth despite oil prices. I am giving you last year before Shri Modi’s arrival –                    105 US$ per barrel. The price during Shri Modi’s time in 2015-16 went down to 46 US$ per barrel, that is more than 60% bonanza jackpot he got from 160% reduction. In the next year, it kept at 47 US$. In the current year, it is become US$ 68 – some increase but we are talking of our times when we had to import oil at 105 US$ per barrel and your time you have got largely US$ 47–50 US$, now it is US$ 68. Should the Government of India have passed on some benefit to the poor ordinary people of India or not? You are getting oil at 47 US$ or 68 US$ now. I can understand you are charging the Indian public little more or equivalent to US$ 75 per barrel. Now just compare – when 46 US$ was the low price of crude, our prices were all time high per liter – Rs. 66 per liter. Secondly our time it was Rs. 64, then it became Rs. 71, now petrol is Rs. 80.10 in Mumbai. 22nd January price of per liter petrol in Mumbai is about Rs. 80, it may be one or two Rupees Up and down. Diesel from 52 to 62, went down to 59 and is now in Mumbai price on 22.1.2018 which is today, it is 67.10 per liter.

My question to you is fivefold – is this chicanery? Is this virtually pulling wool over the eyes of the Indian public? Is it trying to make fool of the people of India by suggesting that they eat grass? Is it an attempt to do accounting jugglery, is it an attempt to do left hand-right hand jugglery, transferring from left hand to right hand. These questions arise; these five questions arise in the context of five issues I have summarized – issue No. 1 – you have simply directed the ONGC to buy shares of HPCL so the Government of India is shown to have met its disinvestment target. This disinvestment means disinvestment to ONGC. Was this the meaning of disinvestment?

Secondly, you are forcing ONGC to do borrowing of Rs. 30,000 crore so that the Government does not have to borrow.

Thirdly, you are likely to have, according to Morgan Stanley report, a fiscal deficit of 3.5% of GDP over shooting the Budget Estimates of 3.2%.

Fourthly, you have not passed on a penny of the benefit of reduction of oil prices by way of reducing petrol and diesel prices to the people of India who continue to reel under the highest diesel and petrol prices virtually in the whole world. In this difference of the International price and the price at which it is sold to the Indian public, the Government of Modi has pocketed Rs. 6 lakh crores.

Dr. Singhvi said have you heard what is the prices of petrol Rs. 71 per liter, Rs. 62 or 63 per liter diesel – we have demanded officially many times that one of the worst ways you have distorted GST is not to accede to our demand of bringing GST. What is this talk about One Nation-One Tax? You have got a Nation with petrol not even one tax, two tax, three tax, out of the tax system altogether of GST. If you had GST, could you levy Rs. 71 and I include Diesel also in it. This is another very bad form of chickanery.

On the question that the Finance Minister of the Congress Party did not include petroleum products in the GST, Dr. Singhvi said, well we all know Mr. Modi opposed GST tooth and nail strongly. From day one, when this Government came, we had been demanding petrol, in fact even alcohol, real estate should be there.

On the reaction of the Congress Party that the Prime Minister spoke of two slogans yesterday including ‘Congress-Mukt Bharat’, Dr. Singhvi said certainly this Prime Minister is obsessed with the idea of having Congress Party erased, now explains that he does not want Congress erased or replaced but he wants Congress culture erased. Then I would like to ask the Hon’ble Prime Minister which of these characteristics he wants to erase – the large heartedness and magnanimity of Nehruvian culture? The inclusiveness of the Congress Party, the ability of the Congress Party to carry the whole country- different sections of the country together- the concept of fraternity which is in our preamble which does not exist in the lexical dictionary of the BJP. Which part of the Congress culture- the pillars of Indian democracy, he wants to erase? The pillars at one time proclaimed by Nehru of Indian democracy which he wants to erase are socialism, secularism, non-alignment, independent foreign policy or does he want to erase the ten years of    unprecedented growth which Congress culture bought very recently. Now we have moved from Nehruvian times to current times. Does he want to erase ‘Aadhar’ by which he swears every day but which he practices in a distorted manner? Does he want to erase the Congress culture which is the world’s largest social welfare scheme MNREGA and does he want to erase the world’s largest Insurance scheme the BIMA YOJANA? Does he want to take away the Congress culture of GST or does he want to take away the Congress culture of RTI or perhaps even the Lokpal ; which part of Congress culture does he hate so much ? But what he does not want to change and erase is non-Congress culture of divisiveness that never strikes him. Call it BJP culture, call it ‘Parivar’ culture, call it RSS culture, call it Bajrang Dal, vendetta, divisiveness, communal disharmony and anti-scientific gibberish about Darwin, and lynch mentality, I am sure that he does not want to erase.

On the question that every party is avoiding Congress Party, Dr. Singhvi said it is not necessary for us to respond to the internal workings of a party. Secondly, it is not necessary for us to respond at a stage when they themselves have not taken a final decision which they will take.

Thirdly, it is highly premature to speculate on alliances. It is not a subject which I want to hypothesize or speculate and last but not the least certainly issue based support, issue based support in every sphere in and outside the Parliament is something which we have seen actively going on. Why should we react on premature subjects like alliances today?

On the question whether the Congress Party endorses or supports the movie ‘Padmavat’, Dr. Singhvi said I am not required as a political party, and sitting here at the podium of the political party, to endorse the movie at all. I am not required to endorse it in any respect whether it is expression of ‘a’ or ‘b’. Different people in a democracy and must do have different views and I do not have any doubt that I will support your view to hate the movie and you will support my view of loving the movie, those are parts of democracy. The point I am making is very different. This debate has ended and this debate must be deemed to have ended till such time as the Supreme Court modifies its order. Under our system of governance, a Supreme Court howsoever wrong, has to be obeyed and if read   Article 141, 142 of the constitution, every agency of the country even a Police constable had to act in aid and in support of that order. This is a debate which has no end if we start applying this principle of anarchy, we will be deemed to be banana republic. It is our proud democracy and I think anybody’s likeness or dislike-ness, freedom or not freedom or absence of freedom is irrelevant. It is a question as per Apex Court’s order, each one of us irrespective of political colour is bound to do it.

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