Updated: November 28, 2019 7:17:12 am
The Shiv Sena, which will head the next government in a coalition with NCP and Congress, gave a strong indication on Wednesday that it would call off the Rs 1.08-lakh crore Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project.
“It was okay when Gujarat and Maharashtra were one state and Mumbai was the capital. You needed that connectivity. I can’t say if this is needed in current times. We are not opposing anything, but our first priority is farmers,” Sena leader Deepak Kesarkar, who served as a minister in the previous BJP-Sena government, said.
With farmers’ welfare and a blanket farm loan waiver central to the common minimum programme drawn up between the three parties, the coalition appears to have agreed to withhold the state’s share of expenditure towards the bullet train project. Instead, the funds would be used to roll out a universal loan waiver scheme within the first 100 days of assuming office.
In 2017, the BJP-Sena government had executed an MoU with the Railways, and the Gujarat government for the 508-km project, which is aimed at cutting travelling time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad to just two hours, with trains running at an operating speeds of 320 km per hour.
Maharashtra had committed to a capital expenditure of Rs 5,000 crore, while holding 25 per cent equity in a special purpose vehicle floated for the project. Besides the capital expenditure, Maharashtra’s share in the cost was fixed at 25 per cent.
Other projects whose fate is uncertain are the Aarey Metro car shed in Mumbai, the Nanar petrochemical complex in Konkan, and former CM Devendra Fadanvis’ Rs 55,000-crore Samruddhi Corridor, set to connect Mumbai with Nagpur through a 800-km six-lane high speed highway.
Replicating the Centre’s policy, the cash-starved Fadnavis government had taken recourse to off-budget borrowings for all big-ticket infrastructure projects — including the Samruddhi Corridor — to keep them off the government’s balance sheet.
The Sena, while opposing the proposed Nanar refinery in Konkan, had forced BJP to call off the project as a condition of its pre-election alliance before the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. But in the run up to the state elections, Fadnavis had made a fresh call for reviving the project, angering the Sena, then still its ally.
The planned facility, Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemical Limited, was cleared by the Centre and the state in December 2015. Set to pass through 14,000 hectares spread across 17 villages in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, the project is likely to come up as 50:50 joint venture between RRPCL — its investors were Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum — and a partnership between the Saudi-owned Aramco and UAE’s National Oil Company.
Further, the Sena had opposed to the felling of trees at Aarey to make way for the Metro 3 car shed. Uddhav had said then that “Aarey will meet the same fate as Nanar”, meaning that it would not happen.
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