Irked by CPM allegations on investments made by him in Kerala,M A Yousuf Ali,chairman of EMKE Group and one of the richest NRIs in the Gulf,on Monday threatened to pull out of the Rs 600-crore hospitality project in Kochi.
The CPM has alleged that the Cochin Port Trust (CPT),a PSU,has incurred a huge loss by handing over its land to Ali on lease. It also alleged that Rs 1,600-crore Lulu Shopping Mall in Kochi,the largest mall in India,has violated building rules and encroached public land.
The CPM opposition has come as a surprise in the state where politicians taking on Gulf-based businessmen is rare,thanks to the clout they weild among political parties. The CPM offensive is being led by state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan,known for his neoliberal approach to investment.
However,Vijayans opposition has led partys senior member and Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan to back Ali. Incidentally both the CPT land deal and the construction of Lulu mall took place when CPM was in power.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said Ali would not be allowed to pull out as the project would create jobs for 4,000 people. In 2010,CPT had leased 10 hectares of its land to Ali for 30 years in return for Rs 71 crore.
However,CPM leader M M Lawrance last week alleged that CPT had undervalued the land to help Ali and therefore it should be scrapped. It was stated that the developer could make Rs 1,000 crore from the deal.
This was followed by allegations of the 25 lakh st ft Lulu mall causing huge traffic chaos in Kochi city. The CPM said the builder has illegally built a bridge over a public water body and demanded the government to levy the cost of the proposed flyover near the mall from Ali. However,this has been countered by CPM leader and Achuthanandan loyalist Chandran Pillai.
Sources said the attack on Ali is to counter VS opposition to government bid to hand over Halcyon Castle and its surrounding areas in Kovalam to another NRI businessman Ravi Pillai. Incidentally,Vijayans daughter works in Pillais IT venture.
Meanwhile,Ali said in Dubai he was withdrawing from the Kochi project and would move the plan to another state. He gave a letter to CPT expressing his willingness to withdraw.