Mumbai: Rattled by the political fallout of the Vedanta Group-Foxconn Rs 2.06 lakh-crore mega project choosing Gujarat, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde blamed former CM Uddhav Thackeray’s government for the loss. At the same time the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi allies slammed Shinde for “treachery, and bulldozing the state economy”, here on Wednesday.
Clearly taken aback by the political-economic bombshell with long-term ramifications, Shinde spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi late on Tuesday where the latter reportedly assured him of “giving even bigger projects to Maharashtra” in the future.
“We are finding out the details. We have come (to power) only two months ago but Vedanta-Foxconn did not get the desired response from the earlier (MVA) government,” said Shinde.
Both Shinde and Industry Minister Uday Samant confirmed the discussion with the Prime Minister and the reported promises, but there were no takers in the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance of the Nationalist Congress Party-Congress-Shiv Sena.
Virtually all parties have demanded a thorough probe into the sequence of events leading to Vedanta-Foxconn opting for Gujarat when more than 90 percent of its deal was finalised with Maharashtra, including allotment of 1,100 acres of land near Pune.
Leader of Opposition, NCP’s Ajit Pawar shot off a letter in which he has alleged that the project has gone to Gujarat due to high-level political pressure, and said Shinde must take steps to ensure it returns to Maharashtra.
Attacking the government, NCP MP Supriya Sule said Shinde must immediately catch a plane to New Delhi and ensure that the Vedanta-Foxconn project — “which had come to Maharashtra on merits” — is immediately restored.
She rejected the claim that “bigger projects” would be given to Maharashtra and demanded that first the Vedanta-Foxconn project must be brought back in the interests of the state’s youth and economy.
Shiv Sena’s ex-Minister Aditya Thackeray said that Shinde has again resorted to ‘treachery’ – first by toppling the MVA government in June with the help of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and now failing the people of this state by allowing the mega project to go to the BJP-ruled Gujarat.
Congress state president Nana Patole accused Shinde of being “a dummy CM” with Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah running the show, “which is a very serious matter and detrimental to this state”.
“Maharashtra had given a very attractive package to the Vedanta-Foxconn project, but it has chosen Gujarat due to the BJP’s ‘conspiracy’ to weaken Maharashtra economically,” said Patole.
In a virulent statement, Shiv Sena national spokesperson Kishore Tiwari said that the Shinde-Fadnavis government is running “a bulldozer in Maharashtra to crush the economy and aspirations of jobless youths in the state only to help Gujarat”.
“If Shinde’s allegations are true, then Vedanta Group Chairman Anil Agarwal must clarify how the MVA did not cooperate with him and also reveal if he was under any political pressure to shift the project to Gujarat,” Tiwari demanded.
Dismissing Shinde and Samant’s contentions, Congress state general secretary Sachin Sawant said that “Maharashtra is always No. 1 in industrialisation and doesn’t need any favours from the PM”, but called upon Shinde-Fadnavis to advise Modi to show less love for Gujarat.
Deputy Leader of the Shiv Sena Dr Raghunath Kuchik accused the Shinde-Fadnavis government of “a systematic conspiracy with all projects being diverted to destroy Maharashtra’s economy and boost Gujarat’s development agenda” with an eye on the upcoming elections there.
NCP chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said “this is the price that Gujarat has extracted for making Shinde the CM” and he remained helpless as Vedanta-Foxconn slipped out of the state.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray said when the project was virtually wrapped-up by Maharashtra, “how could it go to Gujarat” and demanded an investigation into the matter.
Senior leaders from the MVA like Subhash Desai, Balasaheb Thorat, Atul Londhe, Jayant Patil and Ramdas Kadam (Shinde group) have issued tough statements in the matter.
Since the past two days, the Opposition has gone hammer and tongs at the Shinde-Fadnavis regime after it notched up what is considered its ‘biggest political-economic disaster’ as Vedanta-Foxconn ditched Maharashtra for Gujarat.