Mumbai: A day after Saudi Arabian Oil Co. or Saudi Aramco signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (Adnoc) to jointly develop India’s second biggest refinery at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra’s Konkan region, the Congress party’s state unit attacked the Shiv Sena for not following up on its promise to cancel the land acquisition notification issued by the industry department for this project.
Maharashtra Congress chief and former chief minister Ashok Chavan on Tuesday asked Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra industry minister Subhash Desai to resign for “lying to the people of Maharashtra".
Chavan reminded Desai of its 23 April announcement that he was cancelling the land acquisition notice issued by the industry department to acquire nearly 15,000 acres for the $44 billion refinery and petrochemical complex. Desai had made this announcement as the industry minister in the presence of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at a public meeting in Nanar, the village in Ratnagiri district that has become the nucleus of protest against the project.
The Shiv Sena has opposed the refinery, even though it was Desai’s industry department which in May 2017 issued the land acquisition notice. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has been supporting the project, snubbed Desai on 23 April when he said no minister had the authority to cancel a notification issued by the government and that the government would take a decision in the larger interest of the people of Konkan.
“The announcement made by Desai that the land acquisition notification was cancelled has been proved to be a lie since Saudi Aramco and Adnoc signed the MoU to develop the refinery yesterday. Desai should immediately resign for misleading the people of Maharashtra by telling a lie and Uddhav Thackeray should also apologize to the people," Chavan said in a statement.
The Shiv Sena took an aggressive position against the project earlier this year after local population, that has by and large supported the Shiv Sena in elections, asked it to come clean on the refinery. Sensing loss of popularity, Thackeray stepped up the offensive against the project and in April asked the Modi government to take the project to Gujarat or Vidarbha region in Maharashtra.
The Congress has also opposed the project on the grounds that land was being acquired from people “by force" and that the refinery would disturb the ecosystem and habitat in the Konkan region. Chavan pointed out that there has always been a contradiction between the Shiv Sena’s public posturing against the project and its actions as a partner in the Maharashtra government.
“Two months have passed since Desai made the announcement. Why does it take so long for Desai to get the notification cancelled if he really meant what he said? There is a clear difference between what Shiv Sena says and does on this issue," Chavan said. He accused the Shiv Sena of trying to strike a “deal" with the BJP by publicly posturing against the project and claimed that the “deal" was probably sealed off during BJP president Amit Shah’s meeting with Thackeray earlier this month.