As Dhirubhai Battles For Life, India Inc Stands In Prayer

Mumbai, June 25: | Updated: Jun 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
Reliance group patriarch Dhirubhai Ambani, a cult figure in Indian corporate and stockmarket circles, is battling for life after being admitted to the Breach Candy Hospital late on Monday night following a stroke. Mr Ambanis condition is being described by doctors as critical but stable. He is on life support systems and will be under observation for the next 48 hours.

The gravity of the situation could be gauged by the stream of visitors that thronged the hospital throughout Tuesday to enquire about the condition of the chief of Indias largest corporate house and the doyen of Indian industry. Even as the Ambani family was battling this crisis, India Inc stood united in wishing a speedy recovery for Mr Ambani. This is the second time Mr Ambani has suffered a stroke, the last time being in 1986.

Reactions from those who know Mr Ambani closely also showed how the senior Ambani touched their lives. He is a great friend for life.... and forever, recounted Capt Krishna Nair, a close friend, praying for his friends long life.

My concerns are uttermost. Im sure he will recover from this illness and live on for another ten, fifteen, twenty years more, hale and hearty. I dont want to say anything to create panic in the market. Im only very concerned, said a deeply concerned, but hopeful, Capt Nair, when he heard the news about Mr Ambanis health condition.

Another old friend of Mr Ambanis, GE Shipping executive chairman KM Sheth, while praying for his speedy recovery, reminisces: My association with Dhirubhai dates back to 1986 when we use to go for morning walks together at Worli Seaface. I recall the long chats we had and distinctly remember his total optimism and ever-bullish approach. His will and determination is beyond compare and I am confident that this will help him overcome his present state of health. I am praying for his speedy recovery.

Capt Nair recalls another incident, not very long ago. When the president of Venezuela was here in Mumbai, I had invited Mr Ambani. But even though it was late in the evening and he could not make it, he sent his son Mukesh. While the president sat on the other side of the table, Mukesh made me sit beside him, and he made such an excellent presentation that the president said he would do all that the group would like to pursue business interests in Venezuela.

He is an outstanding personality, a fine industrialist with a great entrepreneurial ability. He is very inspiring. He changed the face of Indian industry from a humble man to the highest ever position. His two sons Mukesh and Anil are brilliant, well educated and very competent, who can handle all affairs very efficiently, said Capt Nair, of the man whose motto is think big, think fast and think ahead.

Bajaj Auto chairman Rahul Bajaj says, I have the privilege of enjoying a warm personal relationship with Mr Ambani. He undoubtedly heads the most important industrial family in the country and in a positive sense, is the most important man in the country. At a relatively young age of 69 years, the illness is a very unfortunate thing to happen. The situation is understandably critical, but we can hope for a miracle as they do happen.

In the wake of the rumours about Mr Ambanis health doing the rounds since Tuesday morning, Reliance Industries swiftly issued a press release, stating: Shri Ambani has suffered a stroke and has been hospitalised at the ICU of Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai and he is under medical supervision.

The news and rumours of his illness caused havoc at the stock exchanges, causing the RIL stock to plunge by Rs 9.75 or 4.75 per cent to Rs 273.65 by the end of Tuesdays trading.

Till the time of going to press, Mr Ambani was unconscious and under observation. Emerging briefly from the hospital during the day to address a large crowd of waiting mediapersons, a composed Reliance Industries managing director, and the younger scion of the Ambani family, Anil Ambani, said, My father is making progress and he is under observation.

The grim atmosphere in the hospital reflected the seriousness of Mr Ambanis condition. According to NCP MP and spokesperson Praful Patel, Mr Dhirubhai Ambanis condition is critical and he is currently unconscious. Doctors attending to him have said that he will be under observation for the next 48 hours, before any comments can be made on his condition.

The hospital CEO told mediapersons late afternoon that there was no change in Mr Ambanis condition. He said that he was on life support systems, and that he would know the exact situation after 48 hours.

Noted surgeon Farookh Udwadia and a team of other family doctors were treating Mr Ambani and no surgery had been performed on him so far.

However, concerns amongthe cream of Corporate India seemed to be grave as none of the eminent visitors accept political leaders commented on Mr Ambanis health.

That Mr Ambani rides the countrys corporate scene like a collossus was evident from the flood of humanity that poured in to see him be it corporate chieftains, politicians, actors, journalists, and even the common man.

The visitors log book for Mr Ambani read like a whos who of the political, social and corporate world. Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, deputy CM and home minister Chhagan Bhujbal, and the Thackeray clan comprising Sena chief Bal Thackeray, Uddhav and Raj were among those who came to see Mr Ambani. Union information and broadcasting minister Pramod Mahajan, was among the early visitors to the hospital.

NCP leader Sharad Pawar and Samajwadi Party head honcho Mulayam Singh Yadav were among the first to visit the ailing Mr Ambani. Mr Yadavs right hand man Amar Singh was with the family for most of the day, leaving the hospital premises with actor Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Ambani.

Zee chairman Subhash Chandra Goyal, AV Birla group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, HLL chairman MS Banga, ICICI Bank chairman KV Kamath, city BJP leader Vinod Tawadi, DSP Merrill Lynch vice chairman Shitin Desai, CII chief economist Omkar Goswami, and Mumbai mayor Mahadev Deole were also among those who thronged the hospital to enquire about Mr Ambanis health.

Raymond managing director Gautam Singhania, Mahindra & Mahindra managing director Anand Mahindra, and Gita Piramal visited Breach Candy during the first half of the day.