Vizag steel privatisation plan snowballs into political issue in Andhra Pradesh
Political parties in Andhra Pradesh are up in arms against the Centre’s proposed privatisation of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), popularly known as Vizag Steel Plant (VSP), with the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Left parties launching an agitation against it.
Tuhin Kanta Pandey, the secretary of the department of investment and public asset management, last week announced that the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs had cleared the privatisation of RINL, which employs 34,000-odd people.
Ganta Srinivasa Rao, a TDP lawmaker from Visakhapatnam, sent his resignation to assembly speaker Tammineni Sitaram on Friday in protest against the move.
“I am serious and want all the MLAs [members of legislative assembly] and MPs [members of Parliament] of the state pressure on the Centre,” he said. He asked the state government to convene a special assembly session to pass a resolution against the privatisation.
TDP leader Palla Srinivasa Rao launched a fast-unto-death at the local party office on Wednesday demanding the Centre withdraw its proposal. K Atchan Naidu, another leader of the party, accused chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s government of being hand in glove with the Centre in privatising the plant.
Reddy has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to withdraw its plan to privatise the RINL and approve a revival package for it.
State industries minister Mekapati Gautam Reddy asked the Centre to hand over the project to the state government.
Ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) parliamentarian, M V Satyanarayana, also undertook a 24-hour fast against the move. Minister Muthamsetti Srinivasa Rao took part in a sit-in at the steel plant workers against the proposed privatisation on Friday.
Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Wednesday told Parliament that South Korean steel giant POSCO was keen on acquiring a majority stake in the plant. Pradhan said a non-binding MoU was signed in October 2019 between the RINL and POSCO.
Subsequently, a Joint Working Group was formed for the exchange of information. As per the MoU, POSCO wishes to have at least 50% shareholding while the RINL share would be in the form of the land for setting up of the plant, the Union minister said.
YSRCP general secretary V Vijay Sai Reddy, who is in charge of the party in Visakhapatnam, held a meeting of all political party leaders barring TDP on Thursday and called the privatisation a conspiracy. He said the YSRC lawmakers will meet Union home minister Amit Shah and submit a representation against the privatisation.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its alliance partner, Jana Sena, have also expressed concern over the privatisation. “We shall prevail upon the [central] government to drop plan the plan,” BJP leader D Purandeshwari said.