Eknath Shinde's choice as CM driven by his lack of spine to question PM Modi?

All the three MVA allies castigated the Shinde-Fadnavis govt for the relocation of the proposed Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor project worth Rs 1,54,000 crore from Maharashtra to Gujarat

Eknath Shinde's choice as CM driven by his lack of spine to question PM Modi?

Sujata Anandan  and Aditya Anand 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has acted rather like a zamindar doling out largesse to his minions by telling Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, “Don't worry. The next big project I will give to you.”

That statement reveals so much about the BJP and Shinde. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government had fiercely resisted Modi's attempts to shift major projects from Maharashtra to Gujarat and deplete Mumbai of its resources.

It is an ongoing battle between Modi and Mumbai that is not only rooted in the ancient battle between Gujaratis to seize Mumbai or else reduce its importance and Maharashtrians who have been fighting hard for its ownership. 

Thus there is major distrust between them and Maharashtrians and, by extension, the Shiv Sena of Uddhav Thackeray. 

But now, by taking away the Vedanta-Foxconn project worth Rs 1,54,000 crore to his home state without a peep from either CM Eknath Shinde or his deputy Devendra Fadnavis, it is obvious why the BJP wanted a puppet government in Maharashtra. Because the MVA had been fiercely resisting all these moves and preventing the grand plans of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to boost Gujarat’s significance at the cost of Maharashtra.

The choice of Eknath Shinde as CM becomes doubly obvious – for Shinde, despite his militant background, does not have the charisma or courage to stand up to the Centre. Placing Fadnavis as his deputy means while Fadnavis actually takes the decisions and runs the government, he escapes blame for sinking Mumbai and Maharashtra which is now clearly being placed at Shinde’s door.

There have been sharp reactions from all three MVA allies. Aaditya Thackeray, Uddhav Thackeray’s son, slammed the “ED government” for losing the state plentiful of employment opportunities by not even putting up a fight to retain Vedanta-Foxconn in the state.

He also blamed “this unconstitutional government" for its lack of interest in development by allowing the Bulk Drug Park project worth more than Rs 3 lakh crore to be shifted to three other states – Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh (where elections are due) and Andhra Pradesh. 

Nationalist Congress Party Maharashtra president Jayant Patil was more direct, saying that the Shinde government seems more interested in helping Gujarat rather than Maharashtra to facilitate the BJP win the Assembly election there.

Maharashtra Pradesh Congress chief Nana Patole minced even fewer words, labelling Shinde as a “dummy” chief minister and a stooge of the BJP. He said Shinde was in a ‘self-induced slumber’ while the project was being taken away from Talegaon in Pune where it would have created 200,000 jobs for various people.

He went a step further to accuse Fadnavis of systematically reducing Mumbai and Maharashtra during his tenure as chief minister by allowing many projects to be shifted to Gujarat without resistance and added, “I will not be surprised if the ‘ED government’ has been brought in out of a conspiracy to hand Mumbai lock, stock and barrel over to Gujarat.”

 The angst, however, was not limited to just politicians. Industrialists and entrepreneurs have also expressed disappointment, with the director of the Maratha Chambers of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MACCIA) Prashant Girbane stating, “It is sad that Maharashtra lost the opportunity to host such a large, futuristic manufacturing facility. Maharashtra needs to further increase its efforts to attract investments. We would be glad to continue to support the efforts of the state government.”

But the question now being raised is if this particular government led by Shinde and Fadnavis is really interested in furthering investment in Maharashtra. The Vedanta-Foxconn project is a real loss to Maharashtra (though not to India) as only Korea has a similar project anywhere in the world. It would have been spread over 10 acres of land in Talegaon and generated many ancillary industries in its vicinity. 

 It is a 60:40 venture between multinational mining-company Vedanta Limited and Taiwan’s Foxconn to set up an ecosystem in the chip-making industry that will manufacture integrated displays and semiconductors.

According to the MOU signed with Gujarat, of the total investment of Rs. 1,54,000 crore, Rs. 94,000 crore would be used to set up a manufacturing unit for displays, and Rs. 60,000 crore will be used to build a facility for semiconductors.

The proposed manufacturing ecosystem will include the production of complex and delicate equipment, suppliers of high purity gases, chemicals, wafers, photomasks, and other allied equipment service providers.

 Such a project is aimed at increasing India's footprint throughout the value chain to make it electronics-independent.

If set up in Maharashtra, the project was predicted to improve the state's GDP by creating close to Rs 26,200 crore in SGST, generate 80,000-1,00,000 direct and indirect job opportunities, $21 billion in direct investment, and $5-8 billion in extra investment.

The project was also estimated to benefit more than 150 enterprises along the value chain in Maharashtra.

The main inducement provided by the Maharashtra government was a capital subsidy of up to 30% for establishing the plant in the Talegaon industrial region near Pune. The incentive package included funding for Vedanta to establish a 750 MW captive solar power producing unit, as well as a power pricing subsidy of Rs 1 per unit.

Along with subsidies for land, water, and power costs, the Maharashtra government also provided stamp duty exemptions and electricity duty waivers. Additionally, Vedanta-Foxconn would have received incentives for creating jobs.

Talegaon offers a land parcel that is contiguous and intended as an electronics metropolis with a total area of 10,000 acres, in contrast to Dholera, where the JV has decided on its unit. In contrast to Gujarat, the Maharashtra site is close to Pune and provides simple access to amenities found in the city.

For a US $ 22 billion project like Vedanta-Foxconn, Talegaon was viewed as being far more profitable because of its higher concentration of skilled labour, connectivity to the ports, established domestic supply chain, and well-developed industrial infrastructure. 

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    Published: 15 Sep 2022, 10:18 PM