Trivandrum International Airport: United against Adani takeover
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.
The Left government and Congress-led Opposition alliance had 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.
Vijayan told 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).
He said 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 had last week approved the Adanis’ takeover of the airports they had successfully bid.
Congress lawmaker V.D. Satheesan who moved a no-trust motion against the Left Democratic Front government alleged that the state’s bid amount for the Thiruvananthapuram airport was leaked.
The state government had hired law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas that has close familial links to Adani group chairman Gautam Adani.
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 Assembly session summoned because the no-trust motion moved by the Congress basically became a venue to make allegations against the Left government, which denied all of them.
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.
But 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.