ONGC Videsh Managing Director R S Butola and Bharat Petroleum Director (Refineries) R K Singh are among the 17 candidates in the fray for the top job at Indian Oil Corp, the nation's largest oil firm.
Among applicants for the post at the close of the application deadline on June 18 included AS Lamba, Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor in the Ministry of Agriculture, sources in the know said.
Butola, the man responsible for giving India a standing in the global oil scene with acquisitions such as Imperial Energy, is the senior most in the race, but Lamba being a bureaucrat may find favours from his fellow IAS officers in the government.
None of the directors on the IOC board is eligible to even appear for interviews as they do not have a minimum two years of service left, sources said, adding that this peculiar situation has given rise to the possibility of an outsider being installed as the Chairman of India's highest ranked Fortune 500 company.
Oil regulator DGH head S K Srivastava, Oil India Director (Finance) T K Ananth Kumar, Hindustan Petroleum Corp Director (Finance) B Mukherjee and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical Managing Director U K Basu are the other applicants.
The only person who can be considered an internal candidate is K Balachandran, Managing Director of Chennai Petroleum Corp Ltd, a subsidiary of IOC. Four Executive Directors in IOC, including R K Ghosh, incharge of the firm's Panipat refinery have applied for the job.
Sources said Singh is another strong contender for the job while Basu has an outside chance as he was head of IOC's Koyali refinery in Gujarat before moving to MRPL two years back.
The vacancy for IOC Chairman arose after the government declined an extension of service to Sarthak Behuria till his superannuation age of 60 in 2012. Behuria completed his five-year term in February end and is eligible to be extended as Chairman till early 2012 but the government refused him the option.
B M Bansal, Director (Business Development) and senior most director was appointed acting Chairman till a permanent candidate is located.
Sources said none of the existing directors of IOC has the required two years of service left to be eligible for the job.
While Bansal is to retire on January 31, 2011, Director (R&D) Anand Kumar would demit office by this month end. He will be followed by Director (HR) V C Aggarwal on August 31, Director (Finance) S V Narasimhan in April next year, Director (Refineries) B N Bankapur in August 2011, Director (Marketing) G C Daga in September that year and Director (Pipeline) K K Jha in January 2012.