The Congress is divided over the participation of certain Congress leaders in the negotiations that chief minister Prithviraj Chavan will have with the project-affected people (PAP) of the 9,900-mega watt Jaitapur nuclear power project on Saturday in Ratnagiri district.
A section of the Congress does not want the industry minister, Narayan Rane – an influential leader from Konkan - and his associates to accompany Chavan to the volatile region, which is witnessing a Nandigram-like agitation against the ambitious project.
Chavan is visiting Jaitapur to fulfill the assurance he gave to the state legislature last December. The PAPs, who boycotted the CM’s open house last month, want him to travel to Jaitapur and give them a patient hearing on their various demands.
The leaders who have objected to Rane’s participation also belong to the Konkan region. A member of the state legislative council leads the disgruntled group so that his clout in the region gets a boost after he was denied a cabinet berth. Some anti-Rane ministers have supported the group.
The Rane adversaries reason that Rane, who created a storm in the disputed region by way of his strong statements, would mar negotiations once again. “The local people will welcome the CM but they don’t want Rane to visit them because he used strong language against them when he visited them in the past,” said a leader requesting anonymity.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has decided to keep away from the CM’s visit. In fact, no NCP leaders, barring deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, have spoken on the subject.
Pawar said the Rs 10 lakh per acre land compensation that Rane has assured to get for Jaitapur will be a one-off case and it will not apply to any other upcoming project in the state.
A confident Rane dispelled all doubts at a function on Thursday. He said he would be in Jaitapur because the CM himself entrusted him with the job of convincing people. Rane was the first to make an announcement that the PAPs would get Rs10 lakh per acre. Chavan, in consultation with the Centre, is expected to endorse the declaration.
A buoyed Rane ensured on Friday that his group staged a show of strength in his home district, Sindhudurg. His supporters are trying to replicate the event in Ratnagiri on Saturday.
Rane was unavailable for comment on Friday.