The politics of development

The Kerala Government is on the horns of a dilemma over the awarding of the Vizhinjam port project to the Adani group. The Oommen Chandy Government’s decision to hand over the project to Gujarat businessman Adani, whose proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi is well known, has kicked up a raging controversy.

The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front(LDF) had strongly objected to the United Democratic Front(UDF) Government’s decision. The CPI(M) has accused the Government of reaching a secret pact with the Adani group, and the terms of agreement are detrimental to the interests of the State, said CPI(M) State Secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and the leader of the opposition, V.S. Achuthanandan. The CPI(M) and the LDF wanted the project to be retained in the government sector. The terms under which the project has been handed over to the Adani group will benefit the businessman more than the state. That is the crux of the LDF’s criticism.

To the acute discomfort of the UDF Government, the LDF has tried to extract political mileage by accusing the Congress of colluding with the BJP on the issue.

It is not as if the Opposition alone is objecting to the decision. The Congress High Command is also said to have grave reservations on awarding the project to a businessman close to the Prime Minister. The decision, the High Command fears, could extract a heavy political and electoral cost, with the local bodies polls and the Assembly elections due in October this year and May next year respectively.

The Chief Minister has, however, sought to play down the so-called differences on the project. The CM is planning to visit New Delhi to impress upon the High Command the need to clear the project soon. Failure to do so would adversely affect the Congress-led UDF’s prospects in both the local bodies and Assembly polls, leaders belonging to the A group led by Oommen Chandy claimed.

The Congress in Kerala itself is divided over the Chief Minister’s decision. The I group led by Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala is said to be unhappy about the decision made by the CM on such an important issue without consulting the party. They said this is one more instance of Oommen Chandy’s proclivity to take unilateral decisions on major issues.

Worried by the division within the party, a few A group leaders have initiated efforts to heal the rift. Chief Minister Chandy, KPCC chief V M <g data-gr-id="49">Sudheeran</g> and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala have already held discussions to iron out the differences in this regard.

Needless to say, it will be a big setback to the Chief Minister, who is still basking in the euphoria created by the spectacular victory in the Aruvikkara by-election if the party High Command refuses to endorse the decision to award the port project to the Adani group.

The state cabinet had approved the Vizhinjam project, conceived 25 years ago, in June. But further formalities were delayed because of the Aruvikkara by-election and the cubs imposed by the Election Commission.

As per the agreement, the Adani group will invest Rs 2354 crore in the project while the State Government, along with the Centre provide a grant of Rs 1635 crore. The state is expected to earn revenue up to 40 <g data-gr-id="44">per cent</g> after 15 years apart from 10 <g data-gr-id="45">per cent</g> from port-related commercial activities after seven years.

Now that the Chief Minister is set to meet the Congress president, all eyes are on his meeting with Sonia Gandhi. The ball is clearly in the court of the Congress High Command. And it is not an easy decision for the party high command. This week could decide whether the Adani group will finally get the green signal or no is <g data-gr-id="48">a unfolding</g> mystery.

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