Times of India | 2 days ago | 22-09-2022 | 10:43 am
GANDHINAGAR: Chief minister Bhupendra Patel has expressed confidence that the new production-linked incentive announced by the Centre will help boost solar energy production in the state. The objective of the national programme on high efficiency solar PV modules is to create an ecosystem to achieve manufacturing capacity of gigawatt (GW) scale modules in India and thereby reduce import dependency in the renewable energy sector.
Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray’s Saturday protest at Pune’s Talegaon, the site for the proposed Rs 1.5 lakh crore ($20 billion) semiconductor project of the Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture (JV), has signalled a spiralling political row in Maharashtra days after the JV despite being in discussion with the Maharashtra government on the project for years switched to Gujarat.A political slugfest has erupted in Maharashtra since September 13, when the Vedanta-Foxconn signed an MoU with the Gujarat government for their semiconductor project, with the Opposition MVA blaming the Eknath Shinde-BJP government for letting the flight of the big-ticket project to the neighbouring BJP-ruled state.Attacking the Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis dispensation, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, while addressing a party rally earlier this week, alleged that the government was “lying” on the issue and should be “ashamed” of the project going to Gujarat, even as he offered his support to it to bring the project back to Maharashtra. “Let’s come together and bring it back. I will also come with you,” he told the Sainiks.Cornered over the Vedanta-Foxconn project, which was one of the biggest industrial investments projected to come to Maharashtra, the ruling camp is now desperately looking for a face-saver, with CM and rebel Sena leader Shinde reaching out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah in this regard.Speaking to the Express Group last Sunday, Shinde said his government will announce a mega project for the state very soon.Vedanta-Foxconn project shift furoreAn industrial state like Maharashtra, which has almost all the key elements to attract investors – land, skilled labour, port, road connectivity, water, knowledge ecosystem – has been waiting for a mega industrial investment for years. While the state has seen various investments, from medium to large scale projects, coming to the state in the IT and automobile sectors among others, a mega investment has not fructified over the last decade despite the Magnetic Maharashtra summits and the “Make in India” investors summit in 2015 – when Foxconn had made its first investment commitment of $5 billion to the state.If the wait for Foxconn to invest in the state lasted for 7 years, losing it to a neighbouring state in a matter of two months or a quarter, was set to unnerve the political class and the residents of the state alike.While the continuous flow of new projects in any state keeps its economic growth on track, creates jobs for its people and also enhances social development, mega projects worth $3-5 billion or more give impulse and ripple impact that leads to the building of the ancillary industry, development of service sector and a thrust to the real estate, among other things.The Vedanta-Foxconn project had come as a hope for Maharashtra, which has been reeling under an accumulated debt of Rs 6.50 lakh crore, as the state saw it as a golden opportunity to give impetus to both its sluggish investments and channelise it towards job creation after the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.Terming the Vedanta-Foxconn project loss as a major setback for Maharashtra, a top economist, who has been closely watching the state’s progress over more than three decades and has been involved with various governments in the state with regards to its development, said, “It takes a long time for mega projects to fructify as a lot of home work has to go into it and bureaucrats, political class are involved. So in that sense the loss of Vedanta-Foxconn is a big setback. Also when I take a closer look, I don’t see a mega project in the vicinity and so it is both loss of time and opportunity.”While the state had also announced a Rs 3 lakh crore refinery project in Nanar in 2015, which promised to generate over 1 lakh jobs, it has failed to see the light of the day. The new government is, however, hopeful to revive the project.As regards the past mega investments in the state, the two that made their mark were the $3 billion Enron power project announced by the US major in 1992 and the $13 billion Jaitapur nuclear power project for which the agreement was signed with the French company in 2010. While Enron ran into trouble and also resulted in financial loss for the state, its debacle led to a power crisis, with the state running into power deficit for several years as power producers stayed away from committing investment in the power sector in view of the expected big capacity addition of 2,000 MW through Enron’s natural gas-based Dabhol power project. Also, the Jaitapur nuclear power project has not been able to take off in the manner it was envisaged.The politics of economyWith the latest big investment opportunity gone, the Maharashtra government is now hoping for a bigger project and is counting on the BJP-ruled Centre’s blessing. However, even as Shinde exuded confidence in pronouncing that Maharashtra will bag a major investment in the coming days, Deputy CM and senior BJP leader Fadnavis has exercised caution warning that “Maharashtra will have to initiate concrete steps to rebuild the confidence of the investors.”The government is also hopeful of benefiting from a “double-engine” government — a BJP government both in the state and at the Centre. While the Vedanta-Foxconn project might have been lost due to the lack of the Centre’s intervention (CM Shinde’s July 26 letter to Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal showed that Vedanta had asked the state government to get the “Central Government alignment”), the current government still hopes to capitalise on a “favourable” central government. This “alignment” has already led to breakthroughs in some key infrastructure projects in the state such as the land acquisition approvals for the Mumbai Ahmedabad bullet train project, clearance for the metro car shed land in Mumbai, and the Dharavi redevelopment project. These projects could not move ahead during the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government, comprising the Sena, BJP and Congress, as the state and Central governments used to be locked in a recurring tussle over them.While the state government has redoubled its efforts to clinch a big-ticket project ahead of the crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, slated for late 2022 or early 2023, it is working on multiple fronts, including the revival of the Rs 3 lakh crore refinery project. At the Mumbai industrial conclave last week, Fadnavis indicated his government’s resolve to revive the refinery project. He said, “The refinery project is high on our plate. But the inordinate delay has made it difficult to match the same scale. Even if it is taken to its logical end it will be on a smaller scale.”Another project under process and being discussed on priority is Wadhawan Port at Raigad. With access to natural deep draught the project when completed will have the potential to anchor even the biggest ship across the world.Concerned over losing the the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat, Shinde and Fadnavis seem to be hopeful now that they will get the Centre’s backing for these critical large projects in Maharashtra.It is also important that the state improves its record over the conversion of signed MoUs into real investments on the ground. In the past 7.5 years the state hosted two major investment events — Magnetic Maharashtra and Magnetic Maharashtra 2.0. The first Magnetic Maharashtra was held in 2018 under the then Fadnavis-led BJP-Sena coalition government. At the end of the three-day conclave, the state had then signed 4210 MoUs with promised investment of Rs 16 lakh crore, of which around Rs 12.1 lakh crore was investment from private industries and Rs 3.9 lakh crore was a proposal signed between the Centre and state governments. However, only 50 per cent of the total proposed investments, which were signed, could be realised and have been since at various stages of implementation.The second Magnetic Maharashtra was held under the MVA government in 2020 when Vedanta-Foxconn had committed their semiconductor project to the state, subject to the approval from the Centre.Although the Vedanta-Foxconn project’s departure from the state has now given the Opposition MVA a handy weapon to score points against the BJP-Shinde regime, nobody is disputing the state’s ability to “overtake” Gujarat.The Leader of the Opposition and NCP leader, Ajit Pawar, said, “We had promised a 1,000 acres land parcel to the company in Talegaon. If Vedanta-Foxconn has buckled under political pressure to relocate the project it is a sad comment on politics.”Taking up the political challenge, Fadnavis has pledged to outstrip Gujarat in coming days. At least two projects show promise and are cited to show the BJP’s success — the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) complete with two nodes, Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Area and Dighi Port Industrial Area, and the Aurangabad Industrial City (AURIC). While Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Area is being developed as a large-scale industrial cluster, the Dighi Port Industrial Area will become a port as well as an industrial hub. On the other hand, the AURIC is a greenfield smart industrial city spread across 4,030 hectares with investments of Rs 5,500 crore with the state government estimating that it can generate more than three lakh jobs over the next 15 years.The politics of rivalryThe creation of Maharashtra and Gujarat on the same day, May 1, 1960, through reorganisation of states was not a smooth affair. Mumbai (then Bombay) was the bone of contention between them. To ensure Mumbai remains in Maharashtra, a long-drawn agitation, Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, was launched in 1956. About 105 people lost their lives in this movement. In this background, Maharashtra versus Gujarat has always been a fraught discourse.Despite the co-existence of both Marathi and Gujarati communities in Mumbai, the faultlines remain. And following the switch of the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat, the Opposition has again brought this debate to the centre stage of Maharashtra politics. Confronted with the in-house challenges following a major split within, the Uddhav-led Sena seems to have got a major political issue on a platter that it hopes would cut ice with the people besides helping the party to hit back at the BJP. This assumes more significance as the BMC polls may be held over the next three-four months, which will settle the key question whether the Uddhav Sena would be able to retain its hold over the BMC that it has been able to do successfully over the last 25 years.The BJP-Shinde alliance, on the other hand, has been sensing an opportunity in the upcoming BMC polls to bring an end to the Sena rule from there and deal a body blow to Uddhav’s party. It, however, reckons that if Maharashtra versus Gujarat narrative gains traction, it might be “politically fatal” and hence they are going all out to quell the controversy and promise a mega industrial project for the state soon.Even as the BJP-Shinde combine has set higher electoral targets for the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls — in the previous 2019 polls, the BJP had won 23 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats and 105 out of 288 Assembly seats in the state — a polarisation along Maharashtra versus Gujarat lines might undermine it. Demographically, 65 per cent of the Maharashtra population is youth with an average age of 27. No political party can overlook the youth aspirations given its presence and potential to make or wreck the electoral results in the state. And the departure of a mega semiconductor project — which is regarded as the industry of the future — from the state makes for bad optics, both in the eyes of the state political class as well as its youth.The NCP’s youth leader and Karjat-Jamkhed MLA, Rohit Pawar, says, “We are not against any state’s development. But the question is why sacrifice Maharashtra youth. Why should our next generation pay the price?” Now, this may be question, which cannot go unaddressed for long as it is not just about employment and financial implications but also the aspirations of youth, whose vote base could play a big role in the electoral outcome.
At 13, Rajasthan’s Independent MLAs outnumber non-Congress and non-BJP parties and at least 10 of them are Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s supporters.In the CM’s tussles with former deputy CM Sachin Pilot in the past, these MLAs often gave him an edge but they may be now looking at an uncertain future as Gehlot may have to step down if he gets elected Congress president. At least one pro-Gehlot Independent MLA has changed his tune when it comes to Pilot who is said to be the Congress leadership’s choice to take over as CM if the veteran leader moves to Delhi to head the party.The Independent legislators played a crucial role in getting Gehlot chosen as CM after the 2018 Assembly polls that had seen the Congress fall one short of the majority mark of 100. Most of them are former Congress leaders, and even Union ministers, who were denied a ticket but went on to win without the party’s backing. The pro-Gehlot Independent MLAs promised to support a Congress-led government only if the 71-year-old was made the CM. This effectively put paid to Pilot’s ambitions for the top job and he had to settle for the deputy CM’s chair. When Pilot rebelled against Gehlot and the party in 2020, these MLAs again sided with the CM. They stayed in hotels and resorts with Congress legislators while Pilot and his group of 18 MLAs camped in Delhi and Haryana for over a month. The Independent MLAs also voted for the Congress in this year’s Rajya Sabha elections.Given the level of support Gehlot enjoys among this group, it was unsurprising when Sirohi MLA Sanyam Lodha recently said the CM should be allowed to hold on to his post even if he becomes the Congress president. Lodha, who is an advisor to the CM, told reporters, “Indira ji, Rajiv Ji, Narsimha Rao ji, all stayed both Congress presidents and prime ministers. In the context of Rajasthan, I would like to say that Ashok Gehlot sahab has done excellent work in four years. He started schemes for the welfare of the poor, and did unprecedented development work … Only by projecting his face can the Congress benefit from these works. I feel that he should stay the chief minister and lead the Congress.”In an interview to The Indian Express on Thursday, Gehlot said though the “one person, one post” principle laid down in the party’s Udaipur Declaration was meant for nominated posts and not ones for which elections are held, a person holding two posts would not be able to “do justice to the Congress presidency”.Some of the former CongressmenLodha is a three-time MLA from Sirohi. In 2018, he was among the veteran leaders denied an election ticket by the Congress. At the time, Pilot led the state unit and fielded young candidates, some of whom had a background in student politics. But the move backfired.Lodha defeated both the Congress candidate and sitting BJP minister Otaram Dewasi, who headed the first cow welfare ministry, in the election. The other Independent legislators in the Gehlot camp are former Union Minister and Khandela MLA Mahadeo Singh Khandla, Shahpura MLA Alok Beniwal who is the son of senior Congress leader and former Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal, Gangapur MLA Ramkesh Meena, and Thanagazi MLA Kanti Prasad.Of the 13 Independent legislators, three have maintained relations with Pilot. They are Om Prakash Hudla, Khushveer Singh and Suresh Tak. With Gehlot now set to contest the Congress presidential elections and the party leadership said to be in favour of Pilot as the next CM, Dudu MLA Babulal Nagar, who is among Gehlot’s advisors and staunch supporters, praised the former deputy CM.Nagar sparked a controversy last week by saying in a public meeting that anybody chanting slogans other than “Rajiv Gandhi Amar Rahe” and “Ashok Gehlot Zindabad” would be jailed. He spoke a day after shoes and bottles were hurled and “Sachin Pilot Zindabad” was shouted when Congress ministers were speaking at the “asthi visarjan (ash immersion)” ceremony of Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla.But, the Dudu MLA recently told reporters, “Pilot is a young leader of Rajasthan, of India. He has a long life ahead of him. He has a personality and that is why I feel that nobody can reduce his number (marks) or increase it. He has the ability and is doing politics according to it. I have seen him at that time when he was not in politics. I have been a kattar samarthak (staunch supporter) of Rajesh Pilot ji (Sachin’s father), have been his worker.”
GANDHINAGAR: Addressing a ceremony to honour the cops who were conferred medals by the President of India, chief minister Bhupendra Patel attributed the peace and safety in the state to the police force's commitment to duty. It is because of peace and security in Gujarat that it was considered the first choice as an investment destination, a CMO statement quoted Patel as saying. Police medals for meritorious service and distinguished service had been conferred by the President to 99 officers and personnel of Gujarat police. The CM felicitated them at a function in the city on Friday. Minister of state for home Harsh Sanghavi, chief secretary Pankaj Kumar, DGP Ashish Bhatia and the families of those awarded medals participated in the event. The CM lauded the work of the police force and their commitment to zero-tolerance for crime. Sanghavi said Gujarat was among the best states in the country when it came to maintaining law and order, and the state's police force should be credited for the achievement. tnn
The proposed events on September 25 to mark the 109th birth anniversary of the former deputy prime minister and iconic farmer leader, Devi Lal, has put the spotlight on two rival parties in Haryana — the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP). Both of them are run by members of the Chautala clan, with its patriarch Om Prakash Chautala, son of Devi Lal, heading the INLD and his grandson Dushyant Chautala, who is Deputy Chief Minister in the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government, leading the JJP.While both the parties consider Devi Lal as their idol and woo the electorate in his name, they will celebrate his birth anniversary separately and in different ways.Struggling to make a comeback in Haryana politics, the INLD is making attempts to project itself as a party that is the “true follower of Devi Lal’s principles”. It is going all out to hold a “Samman Diwas” rally at Fatehabad on September 25 as a show of strength for which it has invited a slew of top Opposition leaders from across the country. The INLD is projecting this rally as the beginning of formation of a third front that would eventually take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.On the other hand, the JJP, which is a key ally of the BJP-led coalition government, is going to hold some charitable events and unveil Devi Lal’s statues on his birth anniversary.Ahead of the 2019 Haryana Assembly elections, infighting within the Chautala clan caused a split in the INLD resulting in the formation of the JJP. Amid the rift between Om Prakash Cuatala’s two sons — Abhay Chautala, INLD secretary general and its lone MLA from Ellenabad, and Ajay Chautala, Dushyant’s father and JJP president — both parties have not missed any opportunity to trade barbs, even as they have stepped up their bids to claim Dev Lal’s legacy.The 87-year-old Jat leader and five-time CM, Chautala, who came out of prison last year on completion of his 10-year jail term, has been looking to steer the INLD back into reckoning in Haryana politics through the Samman Diwas rally.To ensure a mega rally to commemorate Devi Lal’s birth anniversary, the INLD has invited NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Bihar CM and JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar, Meghalaya Governor Satyapal Malik, Shiromani Akali Dal patron Prakash Singh Badal, Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, ex-Maharashtra CM Uddhav Tackeray, ex-PM HD Deve Gowda, SP president Akhilesh Yadav, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, among others, party leaders told The Indian Express, claiming that a number of them have also confirmed their participation in the rally.The INLD is carrying out its preparations for the September 25 event in full swing, readying the venue spread over many acres at Fatehabad, where multiple large stages are being set up to accommodate the Opposition stalwarts from across the country. Led by Abhay Chautala, a team of senior INLD leaders are monitoring the entire preparations.On its part, the JJP would also hold various events on September 25, although it would not hold any rally on the day. The JJP has instead decided to organise its show of strength by holding a rally on its foundation day, December 9, for which, the party says, it will invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah besides other top leaders of its ally BJP.“Our party’s name Jannayak Janta Party shows that we are working on the principles of Jannayak Chaudhary Devi Lal. Till the day our respected leader Chaudhary Om Prakash Chautala is there, if we hold a parallel rally in front of him…it is not good on our part. Any sort of comparison at any public platform with Chautala Saab…our principles do not allow that,” said Digvijay Chautala, the JJP’s secretary general.“I can only say that Chaudhary Devi Lal’s name is an institution in itself…. I would like to ask Abhay ji (Abhay Chautala) what is his problem if anybody else is putting garlands at Chaudhary Devi Lal’s statue? Devi Lal can never be his party (INLD) only, he is the idol of every farmer and every person of Haryana and the entire nation. He (Devi Lal) can never belong to one person or one party. Whatever programmes are held on his birth anniversary, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Assam to Gujarat, we appreciate all such programmes. We even appreciate the Fatehabad rally that they are holding in his honour,” he said.On the JJP’s September 25 plans, Digvijay Chautala said: “Statues of Chaudhary Devi Lal will be unveiled in Kaithal and Dadri. It is one of the key priorities of Haryana Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala to open e-libraries to promote education in rural areas that shall be launched on that day from NEET topper Tanishka’s village Bachhod in Mahendragarh. Till December 9, we shall complete this work of opening 108 model libraries across the state. Blood donation and health check-up camps, among other events, will also be organised.”The INLD is banking on its Devi Lal Samman Diwas rally to re-launch itself in Haryana politics. Although it would not be the first time when top “third front” leaders will be sharing the dais with Chautala, but their presence at a single event together amid the ongoing talks about uniting the Opposition against the BJP for the 2024 general elections assumes political significance.
GANDHINAGAR: Five months after the Gujarat assembly passed the bill aimed at prohibiting the movement of stray cattle on roads and public places in urban areas of the state, it withdrew the same on Wednesday. The withdrawal came days after state governor Acharya Devvrat returned the 'Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) In Urban Areas Bill' to the state government to "reconsider it and make necessary amendments". Stating that the bill was returned on September 17, assembly speaker Nima Acharya read out the governor's message: "In his message, the governor said he had received representations from the Maldhari (cattle-rearers) community against the bill. Cattle-rearing is part of our life. Therefore, in view of the representations, the governor said he is returning the bill for reconsideration and for making necessary amendments," Acharya said while reading out the governor's message. She stated that the governor has stated that Maldharis were opposed to the method of impounding the cattle and the hefty penalty imposed in the bill. The bill mandated that the cattle-rearers were required to obtain a licence to keep animals, such as stray cows and bulls, in cities and towns and get them tagged, failing which they may face imprisonment. The proposal to withdraw the bill was tabled for vote by minister of state for urban development Vinod Moradiya on the first day of the two-day assembly session on Wednesday. Following large-scale protests by Maldhari community immediately after the bill was passed, Gujarat BJP chief C R Paatil had in April given an assurance to the community that he had requested chief minister Bhupendra Patel to reconsider it. However, later, government spokesperson Jitu Vaghani announced that the chief minister had decided not to implement the bill. Even in August, the high court enquired with the state government about the status of the bill. The court has been persistently asking the state government and other urban civic bodies to act strictly against stray cattle menace in urban areas.