Mumbai: The dispute over a proposed Rs3 trillion mega-refinery in Maharashtra intensified on Monday, with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray demanding its relocation and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis digging his heels in even as his industry minister said he was cancelling the notification for acquiring land for the project.

Fadnavis said the government will decide in the interests of the Konkan region, where the refinery is planned to be set up, and Maharashtra, indicating the project was on.

But Thackeray said he will not allow the refinery to come up in Konkan and demanded moving it to Gujarat or Nagpur. He also reiterated opposition to the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power project in the Konkan region, demanding it too be moved to Gujarat. He was addressing a public meeting near Nanar village in Ratnagiri district, which is part of the proposed site and the epicentre of protests against the proposed Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd.

The Shiv Sena is desperate to clear the perception that it supports the refinery, since its senior leader and industry minister Subhash Desai had signed the 18 May 2017 notification to acquire 15,000 acres for it. Thackeray had then said the notification would be withdrawn in a fortnight, but it wasn’t, giving rise to suspicion that it was supporting the project. On Monday, speaking from the same platform, Desai said he was cancelling the notice.

“As Desai saheb has announced that the notification for land acquisition has been struck down, there is no question of the project happening here in Konkan. As I give you this commitment that the Shiv Sena will not allow this project, you also have to make this commitment that you will not sell an inch of land to these Gujaratis," Thackeray urged his audience.

However, Fadnavis told reporters in Mumbai a short while later that “the views expressed by Subhash Desai are his personal opinion and not the government’s opinion. As of now, the land acquisition notification does not stand cancelled. A minister cannot take a decision and has no power to take a decision on this. There is a high-powered committee under the chief secretary which is empowered to take the decision. As a government, I can tell you that we will take a decision which is in the larger interest of Konkan and Maharashtra."

Thackeray, in an abrasive attack on Fadnavis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the “people behind projects like Nanar refinery were those villains who had showed the dreams of achche din". Referring to news reports that Mumbai-based investors had purchased land in Ratnagiri district where the refinery was proposed to come up, Thackeray wondered “since when did people named Modi, Shah, Jhaveri, and Jain become farmers".

“When did these people purchase land here? In fact, this is a big land scam in the name of this project. This government came to power on the pretext of fighting corruption but this land scam itself is corruption," Thackeray said. He told protesters that Fadnavis had assured him in February and the likely project-affected people that the refinery would not be imposed on them. “But in Delhi, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan signed a deal with a Saudi company. This means that the word of Maharashtra chief minister counts for nothing in Delhi. Unfortunately, you (the Bharatiya Janata Party) rule in Delhi as well as Maharashtra. We have a chief minister who has been imposed on us by Delhi. And his word has zero value in Delhi," Thackeray said.

Thackeray referred to BJP MLA Ashish Deshmukh’s demand for the refinery to be moved to Vidarbha. “If people in Vidarbha have no objection to it, let the refinery happen in Vidarbha," he said.

Thackeray’s rally came in the backdrop of a strong protest by Nanar Prakalp Virodhi Sangharsha Samiti (Committee Against Nanar Refinery). On Sunday, committee president Ashok Walam said the project-affected people would boycott Thackeray’s meeting unless the Sena chief or Desai announced that the land acquisition notification would be cancelled.

Meanwhile, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said it was not proper of Fadnavis to “threaten that the refinery project would move away to Gujarat if it was opposed in Maharashtra".