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Opposition In Maharashtra Shedding ‘Crocodile Tears’ Over Vedanta-Foxconn Project: Nirmala Sitharaman

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday slammed the opposition parties in Maharashtra for “shedding crocodile tears” over shifting of a Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor plant to Gujarat from the state, and accused them of creating hurdles for five big-ticket projects during their rule.

She was addressing a press conference near Pune on the sidelines of a programme. A blame-game has started in Maharashtra following the announcement last week that the joint venture semiconductor project of Indian conglomerate Vedanta and Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn, proposed to be set up near Pune city earlier, will come up in Gujarat.

The Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena have been targeting the Centre and the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government over the issue, saying that the Rs 1.54 lakh crore plant has been handed over to Gujarat ignoring the economic interest of the state where it was originally planned.

The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government formed by these three parties collapsed on June 29 this year, days after Eknath Shinde rebelled against the Sena leadership. Asked about the opposition’s criticism over the project shifting to Gujarat, Sitharaman said the current opposition means those who were in power in the state till four months back.

“Who were the people who stopped the bullet train project in Maharashtra; who were the people who stopped a Rs 65,000 crore Wadhvan project in Palghar district; who stopped the Nanar refinery project and who created hurdles for the Metro car shed project in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony,” she said.

Were these projects not beneficial for Maharashtra, the minister asked. “Were all these projects benefitting Gujarat? When you were in power, you stopped not one or two projects, but created hurdles for five projects. Now you are shedding crocodile tears in the name of Maharashtra’s interest and saying anything for politics,” she said.

Asked about her tour of the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, the home turf of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Sitharaman said she has come to the constituency to strengthen the party’s base and not for any family. As part of her tour, Sitharaman interacted with beneficiaries of various schemes of the Centre. 

“I have come to Baramati to strengthen the party’s base…I have not come for any family,” said Sitharaman. She said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was concentrating on bolstering its organization in every region of the country.

Asked about NCP president Sharad Pawar’s sarcastic comments that the minister will come to Baramati, express her thoughts and people will understand those thoughts and also her language easily, Sitharaman said people are very smart. The BJP politician said the way people understand the language of leaders from West Bengal to Telangana, they will understand her Hindi too.

“Have patience, the entire Baramati is listening (to me) and if they have any doubts… they are standing and asking and despite my ‘broken Hindi’ I am answering them and people are clapping,” she added.

Asked if the BJP was putting extra focus on the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, currently represented by Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, she said her party was concentrating on every region of the country.

NCP national spokesperson Clyde Crasto, taking potshots at Sitharaman’s tour of Baramati, said she can learn how to develop and nurture a constituency. “It is never late to Learn and Realize. Welcoming BJP leader Mrs NirmalaSitharaman to Baramati. She can learn how to develop and nurture a constituency successfully. The Dream Bubble of BJP winning there will Burst once she realizes the exemplary work done by Ms.@supriya_sule,” he tweeted.

Sitharaman on Thursday set out on a three-day tour of Baramati  as part of the BJP’s `Pravas’ initiative to strenghten its hold over 144 Lok Sabha constituencies. To a question, Sitharaman said the government does not interfere in the functioning of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and rejected the Opposition criticism that the central agency is often misused against opponents of the BJP.

She said the ED comes into picture only when there is suspicion of money laundering.

“Try to understand the functioning of the ED. It does not reach the spot when an incident happens. It’s role comes into the picture only after it emerges that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) has been violated in a case. The ED never comes into the picture directly. It comes when there is a doubt that money laundering has happened,” she explained. 

Sitharaman said the government was making efforts to keep inflation under 4 per cent and steps were being taken to ensure people get essential goods at fair price and on time.

Replying to a question on rising prices, the minister said, “As far as inflation is concerned, I have been answering questions (on the issue) in Parliament every time they have been raised. Steps were being taken to keep inflation at one level, for example, duty on imported edible oil is being removed so that affordable oil comes into the country.”

She said the issue of inflation should be understood in global context. “America is experiencing the kind of high inflation which was not witnessed in the last 40 years. Germany is facing high inflation which was not experienced in the last 38 years. We are taking efforts to keep inflation under 4 per cent and efforts were being taken to ensure that people get all goods at fair price and on time,” Sitharaman added.

Asked about the rupee hitting a record low against the US dollar, Sitharaman said the government looks at every aspect of the economy. Earlier, speaking at the programme, Sitharaman said Mudra loans are given to eligible people without any security.

“While launching the Mudra loan scheme (in 2015), Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked banks to offer loans without any security…he asked banks to treat his word as security,” she said. Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY) was launched for providing loans up to 10 lakh to non-corporate, non-farm small/micro enterprises.

“Mudra loan is for whom? I would like to ask the Congress, whether this loan is for Ambani and Adani. Mudra Loan is given to small businesses. The Congress, which constantly levels allegations taking names of Ambani and Adani, had given thousands of acres of land in Rajasthan to Adanis for business. I do not have objections if the land is given for business ventures. Let businesses come as employment will get generated,” Sitharaman stated.

Sitharaman accused the Congress of creating “bogus accounts and bogus people” under the MNREGA (rural jobs) scheme during their regime at the Centre. “They chest thump that they brought this scheme, but as per the CAG report, the scheme was misused and money was given to bogus people,” she alleged. 

Aam Aadmi Party workers waved black flags at the convoy of Sitharaman to protest over inflation and Goods and Services Tax (GST)-related issues. Three AAP workers were detained during the protest in Warje area, police said. 

(With PTI Inputs)

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