Less than 10 days after Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde wrote to Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal that he was working on getting “central government alignment” for the semiconductor project, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was told by Agarwal that “the deal with Gujarat was almost done”.
This was announced by Fadnavis Friday, the day The Indian Express reported Shinde’s letter to Agarwal. On July 26, Shinde had written to Agarwal that the state was “moving ahead expeditiously” on his two key requests — Central government alignment and state Cabinet approval — and invited the leadership team of the joint venture for signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on July 29.
Addressing the Udyog Laghu Bharati meet in Mumbai on Friday, Fadnavis said, “Within a day of taking oath (as Deputy CM) on June 30, I held a meeting with MIDC officials who informed me about Vedanta-Foxconn’s inclination towards Gujarat. I personally went to Vedanta Resources Group Chairman Anil Agarwal’s house to discuss the project (August 5). The CM and I promised a tailor-made package better than Gujarat…Yet, Agarwal informed us that a deal with Gujarat was almost done. But he assured us that all forward integration will be done in Maharashtra.”
While Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray attacked the state government for letting the project slip out of its hands to Gujarat and tweeted “1 lakh job opportunity lost”, NCP MLA Rohit Pawar asked, “Why should Maharashtra youths pay the price?”
Fadnavis said despite an explanation by Agarwal himself, the Opposition is charging BJP for the project’s exit from Maharashtra. “The fact is we did try our level best and did whatever was within our reach in three months. Why did the Maha Vikas Aghadi government fail to clinch the deal in two-and-a-half years?” he said.
Fadnavis said he will ensure Maharashtra is ahead of Gujarat over the next two years. “In next two years, Maharashtra will be way ahead of Gujarat. Rest assured I will see to it.”
But the Opposition attack put the Shinde-Fadnavis government on a defensive, and the unease within the state BJP and Sena’s Shinde faction was palpable. A senior BJP functionary, who did not wish to be named, said, “Everybody knows Vedanta-Foxconn was moved from Maharashtra to Gujarat in view of the Assembly polls there. In that sense, Gujarat’s gain is Maharashtra’s loss.”
One BJP legislator who is also a Cabinet minister in the state said, “Had Vedanta-Foxconn moved to Tamil Nadu or Telangana, we would not be so upset. It’s Gujarat which is a bone of contention.”
Fadnavis, also pointed towards improvement in investment ranking of Maharashtra during his term in the past. “In 2013, Maharashtra was ranked fourth in India with USD 6 billion investment. In 2014-15, it improved its position to No.2. And from 2015 to 2019, it ranked No.1 among states on FDI.” Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) declined during the two-and-a-half years of the MVA regime, he said.