Joining the Nanar refinery issue, Maharashtra Congress unit president Ashok Chavan said the ruling BJP and the Shiv Sena are trying to “fool” people by speaking in divergent voices over the execution of the project.
Chavan said the recent spat between Industries Minister Subhash Desai of Shiv Sena and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis over the project was nothing but a “grand tamasha” which is a “laughable spectacle”.
The Sena has been staunchly opposing the project, saying it is being imposed on the local people by the government against their wishes.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led party is of the view that the project would severely damage the ecology of the region.
In an apparent bid to win over the people from the Konkan region, the stronghold of the party, Desai on Monday announced that the notification for acquiring land for the refinery project stood cancelled. Hours later, the chief minister, however, contradicted Desai, saying the order has not been cancelled.
“Both the BJP and the Shiv Sena are fooling people of Maharashtra by making contradictory statements on the Nanar project,” Chavan said addressing a press conference.
Referring to Fadnavis statement in which he had said that Desai had no right to withdraw the notification, Chavan said, “The chief minister has publicly insulted the industries minister. Is a high-powered committee superior to the Cabinet minister who is the chairman of MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation)?”
Fadnavis had said that the announcement made by Desai to cancel the notification was the personal view of the minister.
“The notification (to acquire land) can be cancelled only by a high-powered committee. The government has not yet cancelled the notification,” Fadnavis had said.
Chavan said a minister’s statement cannot be his personal view since he/she is a representative of a government.
“Fadnavis had publicly insulted Desai. Desai should have quit if he had any self respect and the Sena should have pulled out of the government. However, the Sena can compromise to any extent to stick to power. There is no point even in demanding his (Desai’s) resignation,” the former chief minister said.
The Centre had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between State-owned IOCL, BPCL and HPCL, and Saudi Aramco to jointly develop and build the proposed integrated refinery and petrochemical complex in Ratnagiri district. The project is expected to cost around Rs 3 lakh crore.
Chavan said the Congress would support the people who are opposing the refinery project.
“Development cannot happen by uprooting the local people. Not even five per cent of the total residents of 17 villages in Rajapur and Devgad talukas”(in Ratnagiri district) are willing to give their land”to the government for the project,” Chavan said.
He said the area sought to be acquired by the state government for the project” is covered by mango, cashew, and bamboo plantations. “Besides, many people are currently living on the land sought to be acquired for the project,” he said.
Chavan said a delegation of the leaders of Maharashtra Congress that met local people in Nanar recently, is likely to call on party president Rahul Gandhi on the issue.
Meanwhile, Chavan demanded the state government withdraw the drought cess and other surcharges levied on petrol and diesel, whose prices have gone through the roof.
“I have written to Fadnavis on this. There is no drought now in Maharashtra. Petrol and diesel should be brought under the ambit of the GST so as to bring down their prices,” he said.
Chavan said fuel prices are the highest in Maharashtra.
“Neighbouring Karnataka charges Rs 9 less on petrol and Rs 3.50 paise less on diesel,” he said.
When asked about the upcoming elections for six legislative council seats in Maharashtra, Chavan said the party might finalise its stand on an alliance with the NCP on April 28 in Delhi.
“I have held preliminary talks with the NCP for seat-sharing. There are some differences over some seats. We are waiting” to hear from the NCP before we take a final decision,” Chavan said.
In a separate press conference, Mumbai Congress unit chief Sanjay Nirupam took a dig at the Maharashtra government over the contradictory statements made by Desai and Fadnavis.
“The way one Cabinet minister announces the cancellation of the project in Nanar and the way chief minister contradicts him…this shows that the BJP and Sena are not running a government but a circus,” he said.
Nirupam said the governments focus should be to help the project-affected persons and not on political one upmanship.
The Congress leader said around 60 per cent of land in Nanar had been bought by “rich people from Mumbai and other cities” even before the project was formally announced, “which smacks of a huge scam”.
“Even before the project was announced officially, businessmen and industrialists close to the BJP and Shiv Sena leaders started purchasing land from gullible farmers. These people will now make money by selling the land at higher rates,” he claimed.
Nirupam, a former Shiv Sainik, said the acquisition of land for the proposed refinery amounts to violation of the Land Acquisition Act, as the area is covered by mango and cashew orchards.
He said the state government conduct a social impact assessment before announcing the Nanar project.