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Smart City is latest poll mantra

As polls loom large, a proposed Rs 15 billion Smart City project in Kochi has again stirred up controversy.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2006 15:30 IST

As assembly polls loom over Kerala, a proposed Rs 15 billion Smart City project in Kochi has again stirred up a controversy between the state government and the opposition.

Despite the state government's plea that the memorandum of understanding for the project was inked last year, the Election Commission had asked that the signing of the final agreement be deferred.

The opposition Left Democratic Front has been against the mega project to be built by Dubai Internet City (DIC), alleging that it was a sell-off.

"There are similar projects in other Southeast Asian countries, where land to the extent of a mere 30 acres was given. For Smart City, over 300 acres are being given. This is a deal where vested interests are out to pocket money through commissions," Leader of Opposition VS Achuthanandan alleged.

However, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy shrugged off the controversy.

"Yes, the Election Commission has asked us to defer the signing of the agreement. Apart from that, we are going ahead with land acquisition and other work related to the project," he said.

Said Congress legislator K Babu, aiming for his fourth straight win from the Tripunithara assembly constituency in the city where the Smart City project is planned, "While the people in my constituency have welcomed this mega project because of the huge potential, a few evicted people are unhappy about the compensation given to them.

"This project will be one of the achievements that would work out to my advantage."

But Babu's rival and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader KN Ravindranath said the Smart City project had only benefited the real estate mafia.

"This is not only going to be an issue here but all across the state," he said.

The cabinet had cleared the signing of the agreement March 1 but as the election dates were announced the same day and the electoral code of conduct came into force, the Election Commission directed that the signing be postponed.

The MoU for the Smart City project was inked here in September last year between the Kerala government and Ahmed Bin-Bayath, director general of the Dubai Technology, Electronics, Commerce and Media Zone Authority - a Dubai government body.

Kerala goes to the polls on April 22, 29 and May 3.