On Monday, August 24, the Kerala Assembly on Monday unanimously passed a resolution moved by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, urging the Centre to reconsider the decision to hand over the Thiruvananthapuram international airport through the public-private partnership mode.
Both the Left government and Congress-led Opposition alliance had, in the state assembly, come out against the impending takeover of the airport by the Adani group that had earlier won a bid to run the six airports, including the one in the Kerala capital. The chief minister, Vijayan informed the House, while moving the resolution that the Centre, had ignored the state’s offer to run the airport hitherto being operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
Defending the state’s objections to handing the contract to the powerful magnate, Gautam Adani, Vijayan also said that the state government had experience in successfully running the international airports in Kochi and Kannur while Adani Enterprises had no such experience. The Union cabinet under Narendra Modi in his second term as prime minister, had, only last week approved the Adanis’ takeover of the airports they had successfully bid.
In 2017, however, the same government had opened the doors for huge profits for the Adani Ports and Private Limited when it permitted the Vizhinjam Internation Seaport Project in Kerala to benefit the corporate. In 2017, Sabrangindia had done this exclusive story explaining on how the Gautam Adani’s flagship company Adani Ports and Private Limited got undue benefits from the Vizhinjam Internation Seaport Project in Kerala, though the Kerala government will bear 67% of the total investment required for the project? This is what was explained by the CAG report that has probed the deal and which was tabled in the Kerala assembly on May 23. According to CAG, at the end of 40 years from the commencement of the project, Adani Group will walk away with a cool Rs 29,217 crore as additional revenue
Three years later, it was Congress lawmaker V.D. Satheesan who first moved a no-trust motion against the Left Democratic Front government alleging that the state’s bid amount for the Thiruvananthapuram airport was leaked. The UDF (led by the Congress) further stated (alleged) that the LDF led state government had hired law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas that has close familial links to Adani group chairman Gautam Adani
Furtherm Satheesan said consultant of the airport project, KPMG, had advised the state government that the bid amount could be between Rs 134 and Rs 151 per passenger handled by the airport. “While the state’s bid was Rs 135, Adani Enterprise quoted Rs 168, which is 19 per cent higher. Since the state had the right of first refusal, if the competitor had outbid it by 10 per cent, we (would have) lost the bid,” said Satheesan.
“If we (state government) had quoted Rs 151 (the maximum amount recommended by KPMG), we could have won the bid even if Adani’s bid was Rs 166 or lower. But Adani quoted Rs 2 more at Rs 168, which is over (the recommended) Rs 151. This shows the state’s bid was leaked,” said Satheesan.
The one-day special Assembly session summoned because the no-trust motion moved by the Congress basically became a forum to make these allegations against the Left government, which were denied by the ruling party.
The LDF has a distinct majority in the house, with 93 members in a House of 140, the LDF was never in doubt about its numerical strength when Satheesan moved the motion. The debate on the motion was on when this report was filed. However, the leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, of the Congress, led his benches in their efforts to establish allegations of corruption against the government.
“The chief minister’s office has become a den of corruption going by the recent developments,” Chennithala said citing the gold smuggling case and purchase of a data management software from a US-based firm, among others.
Former secretary in the CMO, M. Sivasankar, was removed after details emerged about his close links with some of the key accused in the gold smuggling case that was unearthed by the Thiruvananthapuram airport customs last month.
Chennithala said the people have lost faith in the government that has “failed on all fronts”. “This government has failed even in handling Covid-19 since it relied too much on media publicity with the help of PR (public relations) agencies,” said Chennithala.
The government had already clarified that there were no PR agencies involved in the coverage by media. In his response to the motion, Vijayan took a swipe at the Opposition.
“The Opposition doesn’t have confidence in themselves. If they are talking about the support of people, it is they who lack public support as we came to power with 91 seats but now have 93,” said Vijayan.
“Today, even the AICC is discussing in Delhi about no confidence in their leadership expressed by some Congress leaders. Several Congress leaders are calling their colleagues as agents of the BJP. Not that the public discourse is about the future of the 135-year-old party,” said Vijayan.
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