Mumbai: Amplifying the BJP-Shiv Sena differences, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his Cabinet colleague from the ally party spoke in divergent voices on Monday over a proposed multi-billion dollar refinery project being strongly opposed by the Sena.
Industries Minister Subhash Desai, a senior Sena leader, announced in Ratnagiri that the government notification for acquiring land for the project in Nanar, over 350 kilometres from here, has been cancelled.
Hours later, the chief minister, however, contradicted him, saying the order has not been cancelled.
"What Desai said was his personal opinion. The notification (to acquire land) can be cancelled only by a high-powered committee. The government has not yet cancelled the notification," Fadnavis told reporters here on the sidelines of a function.
A high-powered committee, headed by the state's chief secretary, is mandated to deal with issues related to land acquisition.
Earlier in the day, Desai said at a public function in Nanar that the notification had been cancelled.
"Not an inch of land will be allowed to be acquired for the refinery project," he said.
He was speaking in the presence of his party chief Uddhav Thackeray, who has, on several occasions, said that his party would not allow the setting up of the mega-refinery at Nanar "under any circumstance".
Addressing the rally, Thackeray made a veiled attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying, "This project has been brought to Nanar by a villain who promised the country achche din (good days)."
Three Indian oil majors signed a Memorandum of Understanding on April 11 with Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to develop a refinery and petrochemicals complex in the state.
"After signing an agreement with Saudi Arabia, it has become clear that this project is being imposed by the BJP and not the Shiv Sena," Thackeray said.
Asking the people of Nanar and surrounding areas not to give up "even an inch" of their land for the project, he said, "Today, we are peaceful. But if you continue to oppress us, we will change our tactics... If they come to survey the land again, stop them in your own way, lie on the roads."
Thackeray also accused Fadnavis of "reneging" on his promise that the refinery project won't be "imposed" on people of Konkan region.
"How come some of the land in Nanar village is owned by people who belong to the trader community? They do not have a base here. Some of the names of those owning the land here are Shah and Katiyar. How did these people come here? It is definitely a scam of land sharks," the Shiv Sena chief said.
The Sena, with a strong presence in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, has been on the back foot over the mega-refinery project with some local outfits even opposing today's Sena rally at Nanar.
Speaking on the project, Sena MP from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Vinayak Raut alleged that Fadnavis was "bowing before Delhi (an inference to the Modi government)."
Shiv Sena has been opposing the project claiming that it would harm the ecology of the Konkan region and would also destroy hundreds of acres of mango orchards and cashew plantations.
Referring to Thackeray's remarks, Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said, "If the Shiv Sena is calling the Prime Minister a villain, then should we call Uddhav Thackeray a "side" villain? We would like to know the the Sena's role in the 'Dirty Picture' (BJP-led regime) being screened for the last four years."
Leader of opposition in Maharashtra Council Dhananjay Munde said, "BJP and Shiv Sena have been misguiding the people of Konkan over the refinery project. Desai's announcement of cancellation of the notification for land acquisition is a farce."
He went on to add, "Shiv Sena was aware of the notification but, so far, they chose to remain silent. No step was taken to cancel the notification which was issued on May 18 last year."
Thackery earlier had hit out at Fadnavis a day after the Memorandum of Understanding was signed on April 11 between the Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Saudi Aramco to develop an integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex in Maharashtra.
Fadnavis, on his part, had claimed on April 13 that the MoU was not for the Nanar refinery but for the West Coast Refinery project.