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Delhi "revolutionary" chief in row with India's richest man

Delhi's "political revolutionary" chief minister on Monday took on India's wealthiest tycoon Mukesh Ambani, ordering a probe into allegations of price-fixing of gas supplies.

NEW DELHI: Delhi's "political revolutionary" chief minister on Monday took on India's wealthiest tycoon Mukesh Ambani, ordering a probe into allegations of price-fixing of gas supplies.

Anti-corruption fighter Arvind Kejriwal, who took over the national capital territory last December, accused the billionaire of making "windfall gains" through his Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) conglomerate.

Kejriwal's government has initiated investigations into power companies and is trying to curb fuel prices, raising concerns the row could lead to widespread blackouts during India's famously blistering summer.

The power plants use natural gas to generate electricity.

"We have asked the Anti-Corruption Bureau to probe the case," Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, party told a news conference. He has described himself as an "anarchist" and "political revolutionary".

He said his government had ordered anti-corruption officials to file First Information Reports or FIRs against Oil Minister Veerappa Moily, former oil minister Murli Deora, Ambani and former industry regulator V.K. Sibal, among others.

An FIR obliges police to undertake an investigation.

Reliance at first promised to supply gas from its KG-D6 field off India's east coast to utility NTPC Ltd at US$2.3 per million British thermal units (mBtu) for 17 years, Kejriwal said.

But the price of gas was raised to US$4.2 per mBtu when Deora took over as oil minister.

After Moily became oil minister, the national government approved in June a new formula for calculating gas prices that would almost double them from April 1 this year.

Kejriwal demanded the national government suspend the most recent rise pending an inquiry.

Reliance had no immediate comment, but has always denied charges of price manipulation involving its KG-D6 field, from which output has been falling for the past three years.

The oil minister hit back at Kejriwal's allegations and said people "should sympathise with his ignorance".

"He doesn't know how the government runs, norms are followed (in setting prices)," Moily told reporters.

Reliance's shares fell two per cent on the allegations.

The populist politician accused the "gas lobby" of bribing both the Congress party, which rules at the national level, and opposition parties to "keep quiet" over the alleged pricing conspiracy.

Kejriwal, who said he was acting on a complaint from "four senior persons", accused RIL of creating an artificial shortage and thereby seeking to push up natural gas prices.

Kejriwal came to power in Delhi following state elections amid a wave of support among the lower and middle classes for his tough stance against corruption.

But his recent campaigns have taken on a radical tone, such as sleeping rough for a night on a Delhi street to press for police reforms.

He is planning to take on the major parties by fielding candidates in a national election due by May.

The Supreme Court last week staved off a threat until later this month by the NTPC utility to disconnect power supply because of an electricity distribution company's arrears.

The Supreme Court observed at the time that Delhi's power sector appeared to be in "anarchy".

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