The state Congress finds itself in a Catch-22 situation as it debates its stand on the West Coast oil refinery project in the Konkan region, given that in the same region the 9,000-MW Jaitapur nuclear power project was given nod by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
“Politically, it suits us to protest the refinery project as the BJP government is now in power. But we cannot protest the Jaitapur nuclear plant in the same region as it was sanctioned and justified by the Congress government led by Singh at the Centre and Chavan in Maharashtra,” said a Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) general secretary, requesting anonymity.
“The party will have to tread cautiously as in the past it had dismissed villagers’ protests against the Jaitapur plant as politics. Also, it had argued the nuclear plant would bring in Rs 1 lakh crore investments and boost employment and growth in coastal Konkan,” a former Congress minister said. “Today, if we criticise the refinery project, it might backfire,” he added.
The Shiv Sena’s agitation against the nuclear project was also half-hearted. A Sena political manager said, “In Jaitapur, people accepted high compensation and withdrew their agitation. So the Sena could not carry on with its protests. Second, there was a split among the protesters.”
Coastal Konkan comprising Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg and Raigad districts have two Lok Sabha and 12 Assembly seats. In the 2014 elections, the Sena won both Lok Sabha seats. In the Assembly elections also, it retained a clear lead over the Congress and NCP. BJP could not win a single seat. But results of the local bodies’ elections, in which the Narayan Rane-led Maharashtra Swabhiman Party won Kankavali and BJP made inroads, have set the Sena and Congress worried.