In Barmer, PM Modi slams Congress for ‘misleading’ people by laying foundation stones

BJP alleges that the 4,800 acres was allotted for the Barmer refinery project without a lease deed and environmental clearance and no activity took place on the ground in 2013.

Written by Mohammad Hamza Khan | Barmer | Updated: January 17, 2018 12:55:15 am
Narendra Modi talks with Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks with Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje at a public meeting in Barmer on Tuesday. (Express Photo by Rohit Jain Paras)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday accused the Congress of having misled the people by laying foundation stones. The Prime Minister was in Rajasthan’s Barmer district to attend a ceremony to mark the commencement of work at the 43,129 crore refinery in Pachpadra. Hitting out at the main opposition party, he said, “You have been hearing ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan for four decades. Even after 70 years of Independence, they (Congress) still say that you should go and dig a ditch and take something (money) at the end of the day and get your meal.”

Once completed, the Barmer refinery will have a capacity of 9 million metric tonnes per annum. The equity share of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited will be 74 per cent while that of Rajasthan government will be 26 per cent. According to Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, it will provide “40,000 indirect during peak construction period and 1,000 direct employment.”

The refinery has been at the centre of a political slugfest in Rajasthan. The foundation stone for the facility was laid by then Congress president Sonia Gandhi on September 22, 2013, days before the Model Code of Conduct came into effect in the state ahead of Assembly polls. BJP alleges that the 4,800 acres was allotted for the project without a lease deed and environmental clearance and no activity took place on the ground in 2013.

Tuesday’s ceremony had initially been announced as a foundation stone laying ceremony, but was later named “a public meeting on the occasion of commencement of work” after former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot shot off a letter to the PM on January 5, asking how a foundation stone can be re-laid.

In an apparent attack on the Ashok Gehlot regime, the PM said Tuesday, “In the days to come, when any government, any politician, lays a foundation stone, then people will ask (them): when will the work begin? After this programme, there will be awareness across the country that the people can’t be misled merely by laying the foundation stones.”

With both Congress and BJP claiming credit for the refinery, Modi said former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was the first to envision the refinery. He said the laying of foundation stone without study hasn’t happened only with Barmer refinery. “Is this the only place where they have laid a foundation stone and clicked photographs?” he said, and cited the example of One Rank One Pension (OROP) for the armed forces.

The PM said the Congress government allotted merely Rs 500 crore for OROP without studying it, but when his government sat down to calculate its burden on budget, it came to Rs 12,000 crore. He said Congress talks big and misleads people as it is “their work culture and nature”.

Gehlot, meanwhile, retorted as to why the incumbent state government did not move on the project for four years. “The state had to bear a loss of revenue all these years and why is the state’s share still only 26 per cent?” Gehlot said. With Alwar and Ajmer set to vote in Lok Sabha bypolls and Mandalgarh in Vidhan Sabha bypoll on January 29, state Congress chief Sachin Pilot said the programme was an attempt to influence voters.

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