A proposed refinery in Maharashtra is proving to be a new flashpoint between the ruling partners Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena, with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and leaders of his ally party publicly contradicting each other over the government clearance.
The Shiv Sena dared Fadnavis to go ahead with the multi-billion dollar refinery in Nanar in Ratnagiri district, over 350 kms from Mumbai, amidst a veiled attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi by its leader Uddhav Thackeray who said the project has been brought to the state by "a villain".
On Monday morning, Industries Minister Subhash Desai, a senior Sena leader, announced in Nanar that the government notification for acquiring land for the project has been cancelled.
Hours later, the chief minister, however, contradicted him, saying the order has not been cancelled.
What Desai said was his personal opinion. The notification (to acquire land) can be cancelled only by a high-powered committee. The government has not yet cancelled the notification.Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister, Maharashtra
A high-powered committee, headed by the state's chief secretary, is mandated to deal with issues related to land acquisition.
In the evening, another Shiv Sena leader and member of Maharashtra legislative council Anil Parab contradicted the chief minister, saying, "There is no Act that says high-powered committee headed by chief secretary alone has powers to cancel such notifications. A minister can take such decision." He added that, "If a minister can issue a notification, then he has rights to cancel it too."
Daring Fadnavis to go ahead with the project despite the ally's opposition, Parab said, "Sena has opposed the project. Now those who wish to push it, they can show us how they launch it." Earlier, Desai, while addressing a public function in Nanar in the presence of Thackeray, said, "Not an inch of land will be allowed to be acquired for the refinery project." Thackeray has on several occasions said that his party would not allow the setting up of the mega-refinery at Nanar "under any circumstance".
Addressing the rally, Thackeray made a veiled attack on Modi, saying, "This project has been brought to Nanar by a villain who promised the country achche din (good days)." Three Indian oil majors signed a Memorandum of Understanding on April 11 with Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to develop a refinery and petrochemicals complex in the state.
"After signing an agreement with Saudi Arabia, it has become clear that this project is being imposed by the BJP and not the Shiv Sena," Thackeray said.
Asking the people of Nanar and surrounding areas not to give up "even an inch" of their land for the project, he said, "Today, we are peaceful. But if you continue to oppress us, we will change our tactics... If they come to survey the land again, stop them in your own way, lie on the roads." Thackeray also accused Fadnavis of "reneging" on his promise that the refinery project won't be "imposed" on people of the Konkan region.
"How come some of the land in Nanar village is owned by people who belong to the trader community? They do not have a base here. Some of the names of those owning the land here are Shah and Katiyar. How did these people come here? It is definitely a scam of land sharks," the Shiv Sena chief said.
The Sena, with a strong presence in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, has been on the back foot over the mega-refinery project with some local outfits even opposing today's Sena rally at Nanar.
The Sena wants to know whether the CM is on the side of middlemen like Shah-Modi-Singhvi or on genuine farmers’ side, who are against the project.Anil Parab, Shiv Sena Leader
Referring to the names which are said to have the ownership of land in Nanar, the Sena MLC said, "I would like to know since when people like Shah and Modi have become residents of Konkan region, where Nanar refinery project is proposed. They are not farmers, but middlemen."
Shiv Sena has been opposing the project claiming that it would harm the ecology of the Konkan region and also destroy hundreds of acres of mango orchards and cashew plantations.
Speaking on the project at the Nanar rally, Sena MP from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Vinayak Raut alleged that Fadnavis was "bowing before Delhi (an inference to the Modi government)." Referring to Thackeray's remarks, Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said, "If the Shiv Sena is calling the Prime Minister a villain, then should we call Uddhav Thackeray a "side" villain? We would like to know the the Sena's role in the 'Dirty Picture' (BJP-led regime) being screened for the last four years."
Thackeray earlier had hit out at Fadnavis a day after the Memorandum of Understanding was signed on April 11 between the Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Saudi Aramco to develop an integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex in Maharashtra.
Fadnavis, on his part, had claimed on April 13 that the MoU was not for the Nanar refinery but for the West Coast Refinery project.