Antony bats for Chandy over CAG report on Vizhinjam project

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Kochi, May 30 (IANS) With Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan taking a tough stance on the CAG report which cited faults in the Vizhinjam port project agreement inked by the Oommen Chandy government in 2015, senior Congress leader and former Defence Minister A.K. Antony dismissed it as “nothing very significant”.

“CAG report is not the final word, as there is a due procedure to be followed to examine a CAG report. It’s a routine thing and that’s it… nothing more than that,” said Antony.

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), tabled in the assembly last week, pointed to lapses in the agreement that the Chandy government had inked.

Chief Minister Vijayan announced at a party meeting that the CAG findings were of a “serious nature” and the government was mulling going for a judicial probe by a sitting high court judge into it.

Political observers say Vijayan is cut up with Chandy who, as Chief Minister in 2006, handed over the SNC Lavalin case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Vijayan was named as the seventh accused in the CBI chargesheet.

But, as the CBI court in the state capital exonerated Vijayan of all charges, the investigative agency challenged the verdict in the Kerala High Court. The court verdict is expected any time now.

Chandy, meanwhile, has said that he would welcome a probe into the Vizhinjam port project agreement by any agency, as all due process of law and proper vetting of the agreement were done before it was inked.

He also said that he would not allow a single official to be made a scapegoat, as he took full responsibility of the agreement.

State Congress President M.M. Hassan has said that at the next political affairs committee meeting of the party, the Vizhinjam issue would be discussed.

Sources close to Chandy, however, suggest that the present controversy arose due to vested interests and that things would gradually become more clear about how this controversy erupted.

The Chandy government in 2015 inked the agreement for the Rs 7,525-crore Vizhinjam project with Adani Ports, which was the lone bidder and sought Rs 1,635 crore as grant for it. It had committed that the first phase of the port would be operational in 1,000 days from the date of commencement of work, which began in 2015.

According to the agreement, Adani would operate the port for 40 years, extendable by 20 more years, while the state government would get a portion of the revenue from the port after 15 years.

The present controversy has come at a time when more than half of the work on the first phase of the port is over and eyebrows have been raised in the manner in which politics is playing spoilsport. This will also send wrong signals to investors who are looking at Kerala for making investments.

–IANS

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