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'This Election Captures The Evolution Of India From 2014 To 2024'

By Aditi Phadnis
May 04, 2024 12:05 IST
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'2019 was fought on delivery. But in 2024, you can see the before and after effects.'

IMAGE: Hardeep Singh Puri along with former JNU students activist Shehla Rashid and other delegates at the Viksit Bharat Ambassador Meet Up in Srinagar, May 3, 2024. Photograph: Umar Ganie for

As India's Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Hardeep Singh Puri is responsible for ensuring a steady flow of oil imports -- 88 per cent of India's requirement.

In an interview, Puri, who is also the Housing and Urban Affairs minister, tells Aditi Phadnis/Business Standard how he plans to manage the country's oil economy if the conflict in West Asia escalates and why the BJP should stay out of an alliance in Punjab.


Two wars are currently on, one for the hearts and minds of India and another between Iran and Israel that could impact oil trade, cripple supplies if the Strait of Hormuz is blocked, and possibly lead to a rise in oil prices that will inevitably affect political sentiment in India in the ongoing election.
What do you think?

Two seemingly unrelated questions -- 'seemingly', I choose my words carefully. But conceptually, there is an umbilical cord that binds the two... This election captures best, the evolution of India from 2014 to 2024.

The prime minister put it very well the other day when he said 2014 was fought on hope.

2019 was fought on delivery. But in 2024, you can see the before and after effects.

Today, you're talking not just about what is going to happen in 2029 but what India will be like in 2047.

The sheer delivery of goods and services is the defining characteristic.

You've gone from being the 10th largest economy in the world to now the fifth largest, and you will become the third largest in two years.

The list goes on. This is not to say that in a robust democracy, some local issues will not come up.

But we're talking about the overall battle for the hearts and minds of the people.

Coming to the energy front, if the economy is doing well, it is axiomatic that you need much higher levels of energy consumption.

Conversely, if energy purchase is going down, as in the case of the world's second-largest economy, that also tells you something.

Of course, buying energy is not the only indicator (they might have domestic production).

But if energy consumption is going down, refining is going down, you know they're in trouble.

Here, it is a phenomenal story. Take three fronts: Availability of energy, affordability of energy and sustainability of energy.

On all three fronts, India has a good story to tell. India's energy consumption is three times the global average.

In the next twenty years, 25 per cent of the increase in demand for energy around the world is going to come from India.

So, it stands to reason conflict between Russia and Ukraine, in Gaza, or between Israel and Iran, all have an impact on the geopolitical situation and if it affects supply lines, the Strait of Hormuz, for instance.

If you have to buy oil through more circuitous routes, your freight charges go up, insurance charges go up.

But if you ask me, the oil prices in the global market that you see today have already factored that in.

Really? The shortage could upset political plans...

There is no shortage of oil in the world. It is only attempts by some parties who are producers to limit the amount of oil they will make available.

If you limit the amount of energy produced, obviously that affects the price. Today the price of Brent is $87 a barrel.

Tomorrow, if there is an exacerbation of tension, it will go up. But will it go to 90? 100? I'm not a soothsayer.

I have spoken to the secretary general of OPEC today. I am concerned. But my concern is enveloped by a reassurance that we will manage.

So, you're not spending sleepless nights over oil prices?

Do I look as if I am spending sleepless nights? All parties to the conflict don't want it to go out of hand. Second, if tensions increase, we will be able to navigate them.

We have diversified sources of supply over the years. Earlier, we used to import from 27 countries, now, we're importing from 39.

If supplies from one source are affected, we will bring them via the Cape of Good Hope.

Freight charges will go up a little, at worst. And then, we also have the buyer's card. We consume 5 million barrels a day.

If we are absent from the market, they won't be able to sell those 5 million barrels to anyone else. So, we're not helpless bystanders in this game.

IMAGE: Hardeep Singh Puri, second from right, standing, at a roadshow before Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Kamaljeet Sehrawat filed her nomination for the West Delhi Lok Sabha seat.Photograph: ANI Photo

You are an MP from the Rajya Sabha, but you've contested the Lok Sabha election from Punjab.
You have also asserted publicly several times that the BJP must break its alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal, which the BJP has done in this election.
Is that a sensible course to follow?

I am a long-distance runner. I had problems with the alliance with the Akali Dal on several fronts. One: Of the 117 seats in the Punjab assembly, we only contested 22 or 23.

We are now a pan-India party that has grown from two seats in the Lok Sabha. The public perception that we are a Bania or a Brahmin party no longer applies.

We have strong front organisations. Yet, of the 13 seats in the Lok Sabha from Punjab, we only fought three.

My point is, going alone in Punjab will provide an opportunity for the BJP with its programme, and its 'Nation First' commitment in a strategic state that has had a terrorist problem in the past...

You will find that a party that is entering into alliances easily, unless it is a dominant partner in the alliance, will have a problem... especially if you're a junior partner, a problem the Congress will have to face.

Parties that are junior partners tend to disappear.

Second, in the case of the Akali Dal, it has had a very poor public perception that was rubbing on us.

Whenever they ruled Punjab, they produced a reaction that resulted in the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Third, we have to restore Punjab's self-respect. Everywhere you go, you see boards announcing courses to teach English.

Young people want to leave Punjab and become truck drivers in Europe and America and Canada. Is this self-respect? You're just exporting human capital. My objection to the alliance is based on that.

In your ministries -- Urban development and Oil and gas -- what is the plan for the first 100 days of the government?

Every ministry has given its plan. Of course, you've got to get elected. But for what will follow, take a look at the party manifesto.

When we form the government, we will have to do provisioning for some of those things.

For instance, we have said we've built four crore (40 million) houses. We're going to build another 3 crore (30 million).

Isn't that something we will have to initiate in the first 100 days by providing for this?

The prime minister has said the benefits of the Ayushman Bharat scheme will be given to all citizens above 70, regardless of their income status.

In my ministry, Svanidhi -- the scheme tailored for street vendors -- will go to Tier-II and Tier-III cities, even rural areas.

So if you've got street vendors in a village, they will get covered by Svanidhi.

This is a major step. Read the manifesto carefully. It has the blueprint.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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Aditi Phadnis
Source: source
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024