Kerala govt to fight privatisation move


Thiruvananthapuram The Kerala government, controlled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), on Thursday said it would explore legal options against the Union Cabinet’s decision to lease the Thiruvananthapuram airport, along with two others,to Adani Enterprises Limited of billionaire businessman Gautam Adani .

After an all-party meeting on Thursday, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state assembly will also pass a resolution opposing the move. “The all-party meeting decided to explore all options. We will not allow this to happen. We firmly believe {that} without the state’s consent nobody can take over it,” the CM said.

The chief minister also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi deploring the move on Wednesday, announced soon after a Union cabinet meeting in New Delhi. The cabinet meeting approved a proposal to lease out three airports run by the Airports Authority of India, in Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram ,on a public- private partnership model.

The state Congress unit has supported the Vijayan government, but Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has sided with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying that handing over the airport to a private entity would benefit growth in the Kerala capital.

“My position on the airport has been consistent from the beginning itself and I stick to it. I am not a politician who says one thing to voters and something else afterwards for political convenience. The reality is that a private entity running the operations competitively is the only way the airport could flourish,” he tweeted.

Pradesh Congress Committee chief Mullapally Ramachandran, however, said, “Congressmen can’t support the move to loot a public property by an industrialist close to PM Modi.” All India Congress Committee general secretary K C Venugopal also slammed the cabinet’s decision, calling it “a sell-out”.

Responding to comments made by the Congress, civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri tweeted, “Make up your minds, my friends. By the way, do you remember what the Left said when you privatised Delhi & Mumbai airports?”

The BJP, however, dismissed the state government’s opposition to the move. “One of the oldest airports of the country, it is in bad shape. The CPI(M) and Congress want to sabotage its development,” said BJP state secretary S Suresh.

“The state was consulted on every occasion. It also participated in the bid. Now the CM is crying hoarse as investigating agencies are coming close to his office in gold smuggling case,” said minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedhran, criticising what he called a “new-found bonhomie between the Congress and CPI(M)”.

He was referring to the seizure of 30 kg gold at the airport delivered in the name of an employee of the UAE consulate last month.

The Airports Authority Employees Union (AAEU) has decided to move a petitioner before the high court against the federal cabinet’s decision. “Employees were not consulted by anyone at any stage,” said AAEU convenor S Ajith Kumar.


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