Ratnagiri (Maharashtra), April 23 (IANS) Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena on Monday challenged its coalition ally Bharatiya Janata Party to shift the proposed Nanar refinery complex from the state to Gujarat, even as the latter hit back viciously along with the Opposition to unleash a full-fledged political controversy.
“They (BJP) are trying to scare us by saying the project will go to Gujarat. You want to take it to Gujarat? Do it… We will not allow you to destroy Konkan in the name of development.. Konkan will not be allowed to become a Gujarat,” Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray thundered at a public rally in the Nanar village of Ratnagiri.
The village is the site for the proposed world’s biggest Rs 3 trillion integrated oil refinery and petrochemicals complex with a capacity to process 60 million tonnnes, coming up in collaboration with Saudi Arabian Oil Company, known as Saudi Aramco.
On the occasion, Industry Minister Subhash Desai, of the Senam announced the cancellation of the land acquisition notification of May 18, 2017 in which the names of several buyers had raised eyebrows.
However, minutes later, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hit back, saying that no minister has authority to cancel the notification.
“The said notification has not been cancelled. That authority vests only with the High Power Committee (HPC) which is headed by the Chief Secretary, and not with any minister,” Fadnavis said.
Strongly opposing the refinery project, Thackeray reiterated his demand of why Vidarbha (eastern Maharashtra) is not being considered instead of the eco-sensitive and picturesque coastal Konkan region.
“You will not get Nanar… but, if you destroy Konkan, then we will finish you. The people of Nanar are firmly united on this,” asserted Thackeray as the crowds cheered.
“Even before the project was announced, how did Gujaratis or Marwaris and others buy land here? From where did farmers like Shah, Modi or Katiyar come here? This is nothing but a scam and corruption in land allotment,” he said.
Attacking Fadnavis, Thackeray accused him of reneging on his promises that the project would not be imposed if the local population has objections to it.
“But Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has made a deal with Saudi Arabia and chucked the CM’s assurance into the dustbin. Fadnavis’ word is not worth a dime in Delhi. Shift it to Vidarbha or take it to Gujarat, we are not bothered,” he said.
“Today, we are peaceful, but if you continue to oppress us, we will change our tactics,” he said, adding that if officials come to survey the lands again, people should stop them in their own way, “lie on the roads”.
In his response, Fadnavis said the cancellation of notification was Desai’s personal opinion and not the view of the state government.
“No such proposal has been received by the HPC on this issue and no notification (on Nanar) has been cancelled. Whatever decision on this, which is in the interests of the state and Konkan, can only be taken by the HPC after proper discussions at the appropriate time,” he declared.
Jumping into the fracas, Leader of Opposition in Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, of the Congress, attacked Thackeray for his comments, while claiming the Shiv Sena’s opposition to the Nanar project is “a deal”.
“If you say the CM’s word has no value in Delhi, then why are your ministers still working in the government under him? You have already hit a double-century on the number of times you threatened to quit the government,” he said.
Similarly, Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde, of the Nationalist Congress Party, said both the ruling allies have “betrayed the trust of the people of Konkan” and Desai’s statement on cancelling the May 2017 notification is “a farce”.
Maharashtra Swabhiman Party (MSP) leader Nitesh Rane attacked Thackeray by saying: “The king of drama came to Nanar and left? What did the people get? Babaji ka Thullu.”
The Nanar controversy heated up soon after April 11 when a consortium comprising three major Indian oil marketing companies – IOCL, BPCL and HPCL signed a MoU with Saudi Aramco, for setting up the project in the eco-sensitive Ratnagiri.
Immediately thereafter, the Konkan Refinery Shetkari-Machhimar Sangharsh Samiti (KRSMSS) and the Refinery Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti (RVSS) drummed up support among all major political parties soliciting their support against the project.