Chiplun, Maharashtra: Vedanta-Foxconn was ready to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the Maharashtra government on 5 September but the industries minister was busy doing politics, Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray told ThePrint.
Aaditya, the 32-year-old Thackeray scion who’s currently in the fourth leg of his ‘Shiv Samvad Yatra’ across Maharashtra, said: “After our government fell in June, it was up to the new government to take it forward. I’m hearing right now that there was a meeting between Deputy Chief Minister Dedanta Fadnavis and Vedanta on 29 August and on 5 September, a letter was written to Vedanta asking for a time for MoU”.
Aaditya’s remarks come at a time when Maharashtra’s loss of a Rs 1.5 lakh crore semiconductor and display fabrication plant with Vedanta-Foxconn has set off a blame game between the Eknath Shinde government and the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Vedanta-Foxconn — a joint venture between Indian mining conglomerate Vedanta and Foxconn, the trade name for Taiwan-based contract electronics manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd — signed an MoU for the project with Gujarat on 13 September.
Deputy CM Fadnavis has blamed the MVA for having done nothing about the deal during its governance.
Although Aaditya, the son of former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and a former minister of the state until the MVA government’s fall in June, admitted to ThePrint that the deal did not go through when his government was still in power, he qualified it by saying that the talks had concluded only in June 2022.
“Vedanta-Foxconn talks started only after December 2021 when the Government of India bought a good scheme of Rs 76,000 crore subsidy for semiconductors. We, the Maharashtra government, gave Vedanta a proposal that they come to our state. They finalised Talegaon [as the location for their plant] by June and the government fell,” Aditya told ThePrint.
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Vedanta-Foxconn and Nanar refinery
The fourth leg of Thackeray’s Shiv Samvad Yatra covered Konkan. As Aaditya went around Ratnagiri, Chiplun, and Dapoli, he addressed hundreds of people in an attempt to galvanise Sena’s ground cadres.
The yatra comes at a time when the Sena’s going through a faction war, with 40 legislators out of 55 and 12 out of 18 Members of Parliament now aligned with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.
In an interview between rallies, Aditya told ThePrint that the industries department and Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation worked hard, “but the industries minister (Uday Samant) is busy in politics”.
Aaditya has led the Shiv Sena charge over the deal, accusing the Shinde-Fadnavis dispensation of being unable to retain it.
“A high-powered committee meeting was held on 15 July. Had we been in power, we would have taken ahead. Everything was finalised by June,” Thackeray told ThePrint. “During our time, then industries minister Subhash Desai met the Foxconn delegation in Delhi and agreed on it, ” he said.
As MVA’s criticism mounts, the Shinde-Fadnavis government decided to counter it with another sticking point between the two governments — the Nanar refinery project. In 2019, the Thackeray-led Sena, which had always opposed the project citing local opposition, had forced its then-alliance partner, the BJP, to shelve the 3.5 lakh crore project that was to come up in Ratnagiri district’s Nanar village.
Aditya however claims his government had been trying to get the refinery built in Barsu, a village separated by just a river from Nanar, and had engaged the opposition in a dialogue for the project.
“For the refinery, people didn’t want it in Nanar so we moved it to Barsu. The next logical step had the government not fallen would have been to bring the supporters [of the project] and the opposition together and have a presentation. Whatever came out of it would have been done,” he said.
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‘Our Hindutva-taking everyone along’
When they mounted a rebellion against the Uddhav-led Sena in June, one of the chief reasons cited by Sena rebels led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde was the party’s alleged compromise on its Hindutva ideology.
“Our Hindutva is taking everyone ahead and developing Maharashtra,” Aaditya told ThePrint. “ During our times, we changed the name of Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar [and] Osmanabad to Dharashiv but at the same time there were no religious riots, no communal disharmony, there was no incitement between caste, creed, and religion. We took everyone ahead and that’s our Hindutva. That’s where we stand,” he said.
Now that there’s a split in the Sena, will there be a reunion with his estranged uncle, Maharashtra Navanirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray?
He dismissed the question. There’s no point discussing or even mentioning it, Aaditya said.
Aaditya’s ‘Shiv Samvad’
Konkan is a stronghold of Shiv Sena and has assembly constituencies of several Sena rebels, such as cabinet ministers Deepak Kesarkar and Samant, and MLA Ramdas Kadam.
Union Minister Narayan Rane also belongs to Konkan.
As he addresses each rally, a charged–up Aaditya tells the crowd how his father Uddhav was “backstabbed” when he was undergoing a complicated surgery.
“Do you think they are your leaders? Those who can’t belong to the Shiv Sena, who can’t be Uddhav Thackeray’s, how could they belong to Maharashtra?” he asked the crowd, as anti-Shinde camp slogans rent the air.
Coming at a time when the battle for the ‘Real Sena’ — that is, which of the two Sena factions should be recognised by the Election Commission of India — reaches the Supreme Court, the rallies are significant: they are aimed at connecting with Sena’s grass root workers.
Later, when he spoke to ThePrint, he accused the state government of letting big projects such as the Bulk Drug Park go. The MVA had even worked towards bringing the bulk drug park to Roha in Maharashtra, he said.
The project finally went to Gujarat — the second big-ticket project to go there this month.
“The Shiv Sena stand is very clear. We stand with people. For Foxconn, people wanted it in Talegaon, we agreed. For the Bulk Drug Park, people wanted it in Roha, that was cleared. For Airbus plant, they wanted it in MIHAN Nagpur, that was cleared, ” Thackeray told ThePrint.
As for the rebels, “those who want to go can go, this is the love and support we have” he told the crowd.
“I have nothing to give you today,” he told the hundreds gathered to hear him. “But I have something to ask for, your love and respect. Are you with me? And if yes, show your support by raising your hands”.
And the crowd spontaneously raised their hands.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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