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Won’t allow privatisation of Thiruvananthapuram airport: Kerala all-party meet reaches consensus

Barring the BJP, all parties in the state have urged the Union Cabinet to revoke the decision to lease out the Thiruvananthapuram airport to the Adani group.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 20, 2020 10:55:18 pm
Privatisation of Thiruvananthapuram airport: Ker govt calls all-party meetingVijayan has already written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention and to reconsider the decision as it would be "difficult" for the state to cooperate. (File Photo)

All political parties in Kerala, barring the BJP, Thursday said they would not allow the Centre to hand over the management and operation of the Thiruvananthapuram airport to the Adani group.

At an all-party meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the ruling Left and opposition Congress urged the Union Cabinet to revoke the decision to lease out the Thiruvananthapuram airport through the public-private partnership (PPP) model.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has conveyed the views of the all party meeting through a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The overwhelming view of the meeting was that Trivandrum International Airport’s management and operation need to vest with the State Government,” the CMO said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet approved the proposal for leasing out Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram airports for a period of 50 years. Adani Enterprises had won the rights to run six airports — Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Guwahati — through the PPP model after a competitive bidding process in February 2019.

Opposing the Centre’s decision, CM Vijayan had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that “in view of the unilateral decision taken by the Union government without giving credence to the argument raised by the state, it would be difficult for us to offer co-operation for the implementation of the decision, which is against the wishes of the people of the state”.

The state government has been of the view that the airport’s operations should be entrusted to a special purpose vehicle (SPV), in which the state government should be a major stakeholder. The CM, in his letter, said the state had transferred 23.57 acre land to the Airport Authority of India free of cost, subject to the condition that the land’s value would reflect as state share capital in the proposed SPV.

Rejecting the opposition by the state government, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the Kerala government did not qualify in the airport’s bidding process that was carried out in a transparent manner.

“Winning bid quoted Rs 168 per passenger, KSIDC (Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation) quoted Rs 135 per passenger and third qualifying bidder was at Rs 63 per passenger. Thus, despite special provision of RoFR (right of first refusal) being given to GoK (government of Kerala), they could not qualify in the international bidding process carried out in a transparent manner,” Puri stated.

While the consensus between Congress and the CPI(M) is against the proposal to hand over, Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor has come out in support of the Centre’s decision and said, “a private entity running the operations competitively is the only way this airport could flourish.”

State Minister Kadakampally Surendran said his stand was “treacherous” and asked him to withdraw it and apologise. Meanwhile, Congress Leader Ramesh Chennithala said “the dictatorial act” cannot be allowed and “must be resisted”.

State Finance Minister Dr Thomas Isaac said the airport was privatised to Adani “rejecting the claim of Kerala government, even after offer to match Adani’s rate.”

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