: Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy said on Thursday that it was essential that the Smartcity project became a reality to aid Kerala's development.

Addressing a Meet the Press here, Mr. Chandy claimed that the previous UDF government was keen on the project because it was being promoted by an agency of the Dubai government and hence it would be able to woo world-class companies to Kochi. He said Kerala needed a quantum jump in software exports, which in the past financial year was only Rs.2,430 crore compared to Karnataka's Rs.76,000 crore and Tamil Nadu's Rs. 40,000 crore.

Mr. Chandy evaded a question on whether the next UDF government would drop the ‘freehold' conditionality from the agreement with the promoter; and, asserted that the next government would have to honour the agreements made by the present one. He alleged that the LDF government had changed the clauses in the agreement in order to badmouth the UDF.

Referring to the lottery issue, Mr. Chandy said the UDF favoured the strong steps decided by the government at a high-level meeting on Wednesday. He, however, opposed the government's decision to accept one month's advance tax from Megha Distributors, the sole agent of Bhutan Lottery in Kerala. He also said that the fact that the government had formulated an Ordinance to restrict the lottery business under the existing Central law showed the holes in the LDF claim that the State had no powers to take steps against fraudulent lottery practices. Had the government taken such steps earlier, the State could have saved Rs. 50,000 crore, he contended.

Mr. Chandy agreed that there were ‘a few' UDF rebel candidates in the panchayat elections and claimed that differences within the front over seat allocations had mostly been ironed out. He sought to know why the CPI(M) refused to take action against Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac over the lottery imbroglio.

Mr. Chandy appreciated K. Muraleedharan's efforts to boost UDF victory chances, but said a decision on his readmission into the Congress needed to be made collectively by the party leadership.

Keywords: Smartcity

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