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Sonia uses Reliance jet for Moscow trip
rediff Business Bureau | June 15, 2005 19:38 IST
So when Sonia Gandhi, United Progressive Alliance chairperson and Congress party president, landed in Moscow in a Bombardier jet belonging to the Reliance group, it was bound to raise many an eyebrow, an International Herald Tribune report said on Wednesday.
The usage of the Reliance airplane for a foreign visit by Sonia could provide anti-Reliance groups in the UPA and Opposition parties with ammunition to attack the Congress with, especially because the Congress-led government is conducting several investigations into alleged infringements by Reliance, said the IHT report.
Also, the fact that Sonia, who does not hold an official position in the government, was on a semi-official visit to Russia could further raise the hackles of her detractors.
Despite her trip not qualifying as a State visit, high-level officials, including External Affiars Minister K Natwar Singh, accompanied Sonia.
Natwar Singh, however, took an Aeroflot flight instead of the chartered Reliance jet.
The Congress party chief arrived in Russia on a four-day visit on Monday as a private guest of President Vladimir Putin, the IHT said.
The report quoted an unnamed government official as saying the airplane had been hired from Reliance and he believed that the Congress party paid the rental.
The IHT said it was unclear if the airplane belonged to the Reliance group or to either of the Ambani brothers.
The brothers have been meeting various ministers and government officials since their conflict became public. However, the government has taken a neutral view of the fight between the brothers, but adopted a tough posture on the issue of alleged violation of regulations by the company.
Reliance, by a fair margin, is India's most powerful business group. The $23 billion petrochemicals-to-telecom giant accounts for almost 3.5 per cent of India's gross domestic product. It pays approximately 10 per cent of India's indirect taxes.
Meanwhile, reports said a resolution to the bitter battle between the Ambani brothers was imminent and an announcement about the settlement is likely to be made on July 6, the third death anniversary of their late father, group founder Dhirubhai Ambani.
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