“Since 2014, we have a clear vision that the government has no business to be in business … Nitty gritty and details of the disinvestment process will have to be worked out but when I say the government has no business to be in business, it is indicative of possible future course of action,” oil and steel minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on the sidelines of an industry function on Thursday.
The cabinet on Wednesday cleared the proposal to privatise BPCL by selling the government’s 53.3% stake with management control to a strategic investor. This will be the first privatisation of an oil company by the Narendra Modi government. BPCL will give the buyer access to 14% of India’s oil refining capacity and about a fourth of the fuel marketing infrastructure in the world’s fastest-growing energy market.
On Thursday, the decision to sell BPCL drew flak from Congress member and former oil minister Veerappa Moily who described it as “an attempt to sell away an important soul of the public sector”. There is no reason to sell a profitable company managed by excellent professionals, he said in a statement demanding a rollback. Pradhan pointed out that private competition in telecom and aviation sectors led to customers benefiting from price cuts, efficiency and better service.