Uddhav Thackeray meets Devendra Fadnavis, opposes Ratnagiri refinery project

Mumbai: Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday met Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to convey his party’s concerns over the Rs1.5 trillion mega refinery and petrochemical complex proposed to be set up near Rajapur in Ratnagiri district of Konkan region.

Thackeray met the CM along with representatives from Nanar, a village which falls in the middle of the proposed 15,000-acre project and has been leading the campaign against the project. Other Shiv Sena leaders and legislators from the Konkan region also accompanied Thackeray. In recent months, ruling partners Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena have sparred publicly over the refinery.

Fadnavis told Thackeray that the government would not go ahead with the project if there was opposition from the local population. “We will respect the sentiments of the local population,” Fadnavis told Thackeray, according to an official from the Chief Minister’s Office who did not want to be named.

“Since the chief minister himself has assured that the project would not be forced on people who are against it, we are confident that the project has been shelved,” Thackeray said.

Senior Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra industry minister Subhash Desai also attended the meeting and later told reporters that no memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the refinery would be signed during the “Magnetic Maharashtra” global investment summit from 18 to 20 February, contradicting an earlier claim by the industry department.

This was Thackeray’s first meeting with Fadnavis after the former announced on 23 January that the Sena would contest all future elections independently. Currently, Shiv Sena is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance at the centre and in the state.

“The Sena stand is clear: We don’t want any development at the cost of larger public good and Uddhav saheb made this clear to Fadnavis. There was no discussion in the meeting on any other issue,” said a Sena legislator who attended the meeting requesting anonymity.

Local residents have been opposing the project on the grounds that it would take away their livelihoods of fishing and farming, disturb the ecology of the entire region, and expose the Konkan region to further industrial exploitation.

Desai on Thursday morning attended a presentation by the industry department which said that an MoU for the mega refinery would be signed during the Magnetic Maharashtra summit. But Desai clarified that the project would not go ahead if the local population was against it.

“I have already clarified my stand on the floor of the legislature. My stand is not different from the Shiv Sena stand which is we will not push through any project which is being opposed by the local population,” Desai said.

In December 2015, Union oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan had announced the refinery, saying it would be set up by three oil marketing companies (OMCs)—Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL), and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (HPCL). The refinery is to be set up in two phases of 40 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) and 20mtpa. After nearly a year-long search, the Maharashtra government and its agency Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) finally zeroed in on 14,000 acres of land around Rajapur town for its port connectivity in 2016.

The Shiv Sena has a strong presence in the Konkan region.livemint