Mumbai has the natural ecosystem and tremendous potential to evolve as the leading International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) and its distinct identity can never be compromised or undermined. But the bigger question which remains unanswered is, why did the Congress-NCP coalition government, which was both in the state and the Centre, fail to capitalise on the opportunity between 2007 and 2014, former Chief Minister and Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis said on Saturday.
“The Centre’s decision to set up the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) Authority, which is a regulatory body, at Gandhinagar in Gujarat was because Gujarat International Financial Tech (GIFT) city was already functional. Now, that does not imply Mumbai’s IFSC has been scrapped or put on backburner. On the contrary, two IFSCs can co-exist and complement each other. A proposal which was submitted during my tenure as CM is very much before the Centre under consideration,” he said.
Fadnavis was speaking at a Loksatta web interactive series “Sathicha Gazhal Maharashtracha”.
“The Centre’s high powered committee had recommended Mumbai as the favoured destination for IFSC in its report in 2007. The then finance minister was P Chidambaram. However, neither the state nor the Centre initiated the process. Whereas, GIFT under the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi was also announced the same year (2007), planned in 2012 and now has started operations,” he said.
Directing his attack against NCP president Sharad Pawar who alleged that the PM favoured Gujarat over Mumbai while notifying IFSC Authority headquarters at Gadhinagar, Fadnavis said, “Those who are beating their chest now were in power from 2007 to 2014. They did nothing for Mumbai and IFSC and that void was captured by Gujarat.”
“In 2015, the proposal for IFSC at BKC was submitted but it faced technical problem for want of 50 hectares contiguous land. After consultations, we resolved the matter by incorporating green land. Various options including non-SEZ plan was also considered. The bullet train project station planned on the same stretch was accommodated on a pre-condition that it will not impact Mumbai IFSC. The underground bullet train station was a way out. Where there is a will there is a way, I believe,” he asserted. “Mumbai IFSC was never a threat to GIFT. On the contrary, GIFT stands to benefit from Mumbai IFSC,” he added.
While replying to questions on COVID-19 and challenges before Maharashtra, Fadnavis said, “It is an alarming situation. The state government will have to come up with short and long term plans to revive the economy. The state government’s flip-flop on policies in tackling COVID-19, from carrying out tests to providing ration to poor, was flawed. People did not get foodgrains. The cases of coronavirus in the state is highest. When ICMR guidelines called for aggressive tests, the state said no to asymptomatic tests. The state’s area-wise COVID-19 containment projection is artificial,” he said.
Commenting on the political upheaval that led to the BJP-Shiv Sena break-up post assembly polls in 2019, Fadnavis said, “It appears Shiv Sena and NCP had a tacit understanding. And they were working towards undermining the BJP’s electoral growth during polls. The 50:50 power share which Sena insisted on never included CM post.”
Asked if he sees himself as the next Union finance minister, he said, “I would like to remain in Maharashtra.” When someone reminded him about his tag line — “Mi Punha Yein (I will come back again)”, he quipped, “In 2019 Assembly polls, people had blessed me. But political situation did not favour my government’s return to power. Yes, I will surely return with the blessings of people.”
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