New Delhi, March 20 : Centre’s bias against the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat surfaced again on Tuesday as the power ministry hurriedly cancelled a ceremony to felicitate the top-ranking distribution companies after four utilities from Gujarat emerged as the best among the 39 that were assessed.
Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia was scheduled to felicitate the winners after Icra and Care Ratings ranked state utilities from 20 states for their credit-worthiness, but he did not even mention the names of the top performers. A utility from Maharashtra was the only one from a Congress-ruled state to make it to the top 10.
Modi has regularly criticised the Centre for alleged biases against Gujarat in allocating coal and natural gas. The cancellation of the scheduled felicitation surprised N Srivastava, HS Patel and SB Khyalia, the managing directors of three of the four power distribution companies in Gujarat, who had come to Delhi to attend the event organised by the Power Finance Corp. The power ministry had earlier written to them saying they would be felicitated.
"We have received no communication about the cancelation of felicitation. We cannot make any comment on the ministry's decision but the launch of rating report was not in true spirit. Our performance speaks louder than felicitation from Scindia," said one of the MDs requesting anonymity. He reported the development to Gujarat's energy minister Saurabh Dalal.
However, an official involved in organising the event said there was no political factor at play. "The minister avoided felicitating distribution companies in the first year of the rating report. He did not want to honour officials for best performances but the minister was also keen felicitate those who are improving their performances," a top PFC official said.
Top officials of distribution companies from Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal made hurried presentations on best practices in power distribution. The first integrated rating of state utilities was released in the function attended by ministry officials, Central Electricity Authority, discoms and financial institutions.
ICRA and CARE took note of very high operational and financial performance capabilities of the utilities from Gujarat and graded them as 'A+'. Companies of Maharashtra and West Bengal were graded 'A', followed by 11 entities from Karnataka, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab with 'B+' grade for moderate operational and financial performance.
Besides cancelling felicitation, Scindia also avoided naming any states for their profits and impressive performances. State utilities' losses are estimated to have risen to Rs. 80,000 crore in 2011-12 from Rs. 63,500 crore in the previous year.
"Ratings of distribution companies will be a periodic exercise for long-term sustainable approach to improve their health. The report will enable distribution companies to compare their ratings with others," said Scindia. After the event, he suggested the media to go through the report for state-specific ratings.