The best tribute for Murli Deora who passed away recently came from Finance and I&B Minister Arun Jaitley: “there was something about Murli Deora that made him win friends across the spectrum... He would rub shoulders with his constituents, as well as captains of industry... He was at ease dealing with politicians and civil servants....He was unquestionably the best and most networked politician in India....”
I had occasions to interact with him at the Economic Editors’ Conferences. I remember the sessions with Deora as Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas. Rich data was provided on the sector. In November 2009 gas production at the Reliance gas fields in the Krishna-Godavari Basin peaked to 60 msmcmd/day. Deora projected this to grow to 80 msmcmd by March 2010; with ONGC, Cairn India and GSPC also succeeding, he made an optimistic projection of the KG Basin; around even 200 msmcmd (sadly, this projection did not come true; production dropped to less than 30 msmcmd in 2010). In such meetings Deora left the presentations and interactions to Department Secretaries (M S Srinivasan, R S Pandey..., ) and respected their special knowledge.
Yashwant Sinha, in a recent address also paid a glowing tribute to Deora on his invaluable help for the passage of the IRDA bill that opened up the insurance sector. Remember, the support of the Congress party was vital for the passage of such bills. Sinha referred to the extremely helpful attitude of Deora who was then Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance.
Murli Deora, was an industrialist and social worker before foraying into politics. In 1977 he was elected as the Mayor of Mumbai South. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2004 and served as Union Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas from 2006. He stood against the oilmen’s strike with an iron fist, breaking his image as a soft person. He worked hard to shield consumers from the impact of oil’s high price run.
Deora was the man we should thank for bringing the ban on usage of tobacco in public. Smoking in public was prohibited due to his petition before the Supreme Court in 2001.