Gujarat’s development model has a new admirer in Nationalist Congress Party chief, Sharad Pawar.
Bitter about the criticism the Lavasa hill city project that he had promoted has received, Pawar on Thursday praised Gujarat for the progress it has made while lashing out at the media and activists for blocking development in Maharashtra.
He did not specifically speak about Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Pawar was speaking at the annual general meeting of Vasantdada Sugar Institute at Manjri near Pune.
The Union agriculture minister whose party is an important ally in the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre said Maharashtra should imitate Gujarat for successfully executing developmental projects, some of which are facing protests from various organisations in the state.
“If we look at Gujarat, the government, the Opposition and the media, all are together encouraging development there. I think you should also do a similar thing here,” Pawar said.
In 2008, the Tata group chose Sanand in Gujarat as the site for its Nano plant after the project faced violent protests in West Bengal.
The Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat has always marketed the state as an investment destination where business houses will not face any hindrances when setting up shop.
“Today, the media and some organisations just don’t want anything to happen here,” Pawar said about Maharashtra.
“The state is facing a shortage of power and we have to produce more electricity.” Pawar was referring to the proposed power projects in Konkan — the Jaitapur nuclear power plant being the prominent one — and Vidarbha. Activists like Ulka Mahajan have opposed the Jaitapur power plant at Ratnagiri district. The Shiv Sena too has lent support to protesters.
Political observers see Pawar’s comments about the media and activists in the context of his displeasure with protests against Lavasa.
The Union agriculture minister has been one of the supporters of the private hill station, and had chosen the site himself. Lavasa is under the Union environment ministry’s scanner for allegedly violating environment norms. “If projects do not come up, how will development take place? I want to see Maharashtra going forward,” Pawar said.
Pawar has been defending the project saying the proposed hill city was being built according to a government policy to promote hill stations. The project’s initial promoters included Pawar’s daughter, member of Parliament Supriya Sule, and son-in-law, Sadanand Sule. The Sules surrendered their stake in the project in 2004.