The union cabinet on Thursday cleared the creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the politically sensitive Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh.
The move came a day after the Telangana region of the state voted, and as the Seemandhra region, which has been demanding early execution of the project, prepares to go to the polls in the next phase on May 7. Sources said the government has taken the approval of the Election Commission (EC), having argued that this commitment was part of the Act that created the state of Telangana. They said the move should not be seen as violating the Model Code of Conduct because the Centre was only implementing an Act that was passed before the elections were announced.
While the government may be technically correct, the broader understanding was that the formal process of partitioning Andhra Pradesh would be carried out by the new central government.
The Polavaram project carries the promise of a political dividend. It was a thorny issue during the discussions leading up to the creation of Telangana. Backers of the new state were against the project because villages on their side would be submerged. Ultimately, these villages were shifted to the Seemandhra side, and the Centre took the responsibility of executing the project.
Any move to create an SPV for Polavaram before the poll in Telangana could have had a negative impact on the Congress. With voting done there, the focus is on Seemandhra, where the party has lost significant ground. In 2009, Andhra Pradesh contributed the largest chunk of 30 seats to the Congress.
Government sources insisted the move was a regular administrative decision that was necessary to execute the provisions of the Act. It is reliably learnt that the move was piloted at the highest levels, with the water resources ministry having been asked a few weeks back to move a cabinet proposal. The ministry subsequently carried out legal consultations and approached the EC. After the EC gave its approval, it was left to the government to decide on the timing.
The Rs 20,000-crore Polavaram multipurpose project is aimed at improving the irrigation system in the area. It will connect the Godavari river system with that of the Krishna. It is also expected to improve the drinking water situation in Visakhapatnam. The project enjoys national status.