Nagpur: Pushed into a corner over its stance on the Ratanagiri mega refinery, the Shiv Sena on Wednesday chose to disrupt proceedings in the assembly after its demand to discuss the issue was rejected.
Shiv Sena legislators wanted to speak on the issue and demanded cancelling the project immediately. Speaker Haribhau Bagde did not agree, and the leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil objected as he had already initiated a discussion on farm distress in the House.
Shiv Sena legislators then raised slogans against the project, following which the assembly was adjourned for the day.
The Shiv Sena has been opposing the refinery and petrochemical complex proposed to be set up over 5,461 hectares in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts of Konkan, a Shiv Sena bastion. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, in particular chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, has backed the project. The Union petroleum ministry headed by BJP’s Dharmendra Pradhan has also been pushing the project as one of the world’s largest refineries.
The Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd (RRPCL) is to be built by a joint venture between three state-owned oil marketing companies (OMCs) and Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Saudi Aramco). On 11 April, three OMCs and Saudi Aramco signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) followed by another MoU on 25 June between Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (Adnoc) to jointly develop the refinery. These developments, coupled with Fadnavis’s advocacy for the project, have rattled the Shiv Sena which fears loss of political capital in Konkan.
Shiv Sena has claimed that the project would adversely affect cashew and mango farming in Konkan and disturb natural habitat. However, the Sena has been pushed into a corner by the BJP and Fadnavis as even after Sena leader and Maharashtra industry minister Subhash Desai’s announcement on 23 April that the land acquisition notice issued for the project would be cancelled, the Fadnavis government has not done so.
On the contrary, Fadnavis, while replying to a calling attention notice raised in the legislative council on Tuesday, reiterated that the refinery would come up on the west coast and the government would talk to the local population. Desai, who was present in the council, did not intervene, though the written reply issued by the industry minister said the proposal to cancel the land acquisition notice was under consideration of the chief minister.
Desai’s silence on Tuesday was seen as Sena’s surrender on the issue and Sena legislators went into a damage control mode on Wednesday as the Konkan Refinery Virodhi Sangharsha Samiti comprising local residents who are opposing the project, organised a march to the legislature in Nagpur. Asked about Desai’s silence, senior Shiv Sena leader and minister Eknath Shinde said the chief minister had stated in his reply that the project would not be imposed on the people. “The chief minister stated what we wanted. We raised the issue again today to reiterate our position," Shinde told Mint.