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CM Shinde’s letter reveals: Vedanta told state to seek ‘Central Govt alignment’

In July 26 letter to Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal, Shinde said state was ‘moving expeditiously’ on request; invited him for MoU ceremony on July 29.

CM Shinde and Deputy CM Fadnavis at a meeting with Vedanta-Foxconn officials. (File)

THE VEDANTA Group made two key requests to the Maharashtra government before finalising the location of its Rs 1.5-lakh-crore semiconductor facility in Talegaon, the proposed site near Pune: “Central government alignment,” and state Cabinet approval.

Putting this on record on July 26 in a letter to Anil Agarwal, Chairman, Vedanta Group, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde referred to a letter from Vedanta and said: “…(your) two key requests from the state are to seek central government alignment and cabinet approval. You will be pleased to know that on both fronts, the state is already in advanced stages and is moving ahead expeditiously.”

Shinde was sworn in as CM on June 30.

Inviting Agarwal and the team from Vedanta, Foxconn and AvanStrate for an “MoU signing ceremony” on July 29, at 12 pm, Shinde, in his letter assured Agarwal that a “high-powered committee” had given an in-principle approval for the incentive package and this would be cleared by the state cabinet.

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“In addition, we are also seeking alignment with the highest levels at Government of India to request for unfettered support in ensuring the project receives due support,” Shinde wrote.

Incidentally, on July 26, the Maharashtra cabinet comprised only Shinde and Fadnavis.

A Vedanta Group spokesperson declined to comment when asked about their two key “requests” made to the Maharashtra government as outlined in Shinde’s letter.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Sinde with Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai. (PTI, File)

The Indian Express asked Maharashtra Industries Minister Uday Samant what happened after this letter that led to the project moving out. “Looking at Agarwal’s tweet, it seems they had already made up their mind to invest in Gujarat,” he said in a reference to the Vedanta chairman’s tweet Wednesday.

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In that tweet, Agarwal said that Vedanta-Foxconn had been professionally assessing sites for a multi-billion-dollar investment. “This is a scientific and financial process which takes several years. We started this about 2 years ago. We decided (on) Gujarat (a) few months ago as they met our expectations,” he tweeted.

On September 14, the Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Gujarat government for setting up the semiconductor facility.

Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis are facing Opposition fire for letting the Rs 1.5-lakh-crore project “slip out” of the state.

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Claiming that the incentive package offered by Gujarat was much less than what Maharashtra had offered, Shiv Sena leader and former Industries Minister Subhash Desai had said, “If the project has gone to Gujarat despite that, then it is clear that the decision is political, and under pressure from the Central government.”

In his July 26 letter inviting Agarwal for the MoU signing ceremony, Maharashtra Chief Minister Shinde said: “The event will feature the highest decision makers from the political and state leadership in the state and we believe is an essential next step in ensuring a seamless cabinet approval. We also believe the MoU will form a strong basis for (the) Government of India to favorably approve the project to meet the capital purchase plan as outlined by Akarsh during our discussion.”

Akarsh Hebbar, who is Anil Agarwal’s son-in-law is the Managing Director, AvanStrate Inc, a manufacturer of LCD glass substrates.

Shinde, in his letter, noted that the state government had a chance to meet the leadership from Vedanta, Foxconn and AvanStrate on July 26. “…it was heartening to see the significant progress that has been made to ensure the state’s policy incentives, infrastructure offerings and ecosystem are aligned to the project needs. As noted during the meeting, India will only be the fifth country to host a semiconductor and display ecosystem of this size and with Vedanta as an anchor investor, we are confident of realising the goal of housing the world’s next Silicon Valley in Pune, Maharashtra,” he said in the letter.

While the Maharashtra Chief Minister said he was looking forward to Agarwal’s “earliest confirmation”, Vedanta-Foxconn eventually chose Gujarat.

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Acknowledging Maharashtra’s offer, Agarwal said in his tweet, “…in July meeting with Maharashtra leadership, they made a huge effort to outbid other states with (a) competitive offer. We have to start in one place & based on professional & independent advice we chose Gujarat… Maharashtra will be our key to forward integration in our Gujarat JV.”

First published on: 16-09-2022 at 04:10:17 am
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