regular-article-logo Thursday, 20 June 2024

Bengal budget silent on Adani Tajpur project

Political sources suggest Gautam Adani may have lost 'credibility' in the eyes of the decision-makers in the state

Sambit Saha Calcutta Published 16.02.23, 03:47 AM
Gautam Adani.

Gautam Adani. File Photo

The proposed Tajpur port found no mention in the budget read out by Bengal finance minister Chandrima Bhattacharya on Wednesday, raising questions about the future of this critical infrastructure project and the role of the Adani group in building it.

In October, the government had issued a letter of intent to Adani Ports & Special Economic Zones after selecting the company through a global tender. The work on the project was to kick off in early 2024, before the general election.


Political sources suggested Gautam Adani may have lost “credibility” in the eyes of the decision-makers in Bengal after the conglomerate was accused of accounting fraud and stock manipulation by the US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research. Since the report came out on January 24, the Adani group stocks have crashed.

The Opposition, led by the Congress, has demanded a probe by a joint parliamentary committee into the allegations.

Bhattacharya’s budget speech touched upon a few other industrial projects, notably the Deocha Pachami coal block development, industrial and economic corridors, GAIL’s gas pipeline, city-gas distribution, shale and coalbed methane explorations.

The conspicuous absence of the Tajpur port project — which used to find prominent mention in the budget in the last few years — was not lost on the Opposition.

“For the last seven/eight years, we saw Tajpur port prominently featured in the budget. Not a single line this year. A memorandum of understanding was signed at the Bijoya Sammilani. But we find no mention of it in the budget today. Daal mein kuch kala hai?” leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari asked after the budget.

The state government’s uneasiness over Adani’s involvement in the Tajpur port was also laid bare during a postbudget media conference by Bhattacharya. Asked about the notable steps being considered in the budget, she did not mention Tajpur.

To a question whether the recent developments involving Adani would have an impact on the project, she replied: “What is the recent development you ask the central government.” She later added: “We will do whatever we have to do. What we are doing will be reflected in the future, you will see.”

At least one industry source, however, said all may not be over for Adani’s involvement in the Tajpur port. Earlier this week, the Adani group had put out a statement saying it was committed to the Tajpur project.

Given the controversy surrounding the Adanis, the state may have taken a waitand-watch policy, the source added. Bengal is not alone in trying to avoid unwelcome attention over the Adani group.

Last week, Gautam Adani did not attend the Uttar Pradesh investment summit which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and which witnessed attendance from the A-list of India Inc.

Adani was the show-stopper at the Bengal Global Business Summit in April 2022. His son Karan Adani came to Calcutta in October to attend the state government’s Bijoya meet where he was handed over the letter of intent for Tajpur.

The next milestone industry would be watching out for is the signing of a development concession agreement between the state and Adani Ports & Special Economic Zones. Before that, the private sector port operator has to obtain a number of clearances from the central government. The state government had identified Tajpur as one of the game changers in the industrial landscape of Bengal. But, for now, it appears that the Adani controversy has cast a shadow on its future.

Follow us on: