Special Correspondent

Both Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa claim credit

CHENNAI: The proposed Motorola project in Sriperumbudur is at the centre of a political controversy with both Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and the former Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, insisting that they were instrumental in bringing the project to Tamil Nadu.

According to Ms. Jayalalithaa, all the spadework for the Motorola project was done by the previous All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam Government. The present Government wanted to take credit for the project sanctioned by her Government on a much larger scale.

A memorandum of understanding was signed in March 2006 with Terry Gou, chairman and CEO of Foxconn, the Taiwan-based electronics component manufacturer.

"The MoU was for setting up a Special Economic Zone jointly with the U.S. telecom equipment company, Motorola, and the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu at Sriperumbudur," she said in a statement.

All the groundwork for the Sriperumbudur Hi-tech Innovation Park SEZ was done by her Government following a meeting with Mr. Gou towards the end of 2005.

However, Mr. Karunanidhi argued that the Foxconn project was different from the Motorola project. The two companies had come independently to Tamil Nadu. The ownership, management and functioning of the two companies were completely independent of each other. "It is, therefore, totally incorrect to say that the Motorola project is part of the Foxcon project." While the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Government signed an MoU with Stu Reed of Motorola, the AIADMK Government signed an MoU with Mr. Gou.

SEZ status

In a statement, the Chief Minister said the DMK Government did not raise any objections to the Foxconn project for which the AIADMK Government signed the MoU. "Foxconn wanted to establish its project in the SEZ format. According to Government of India SEZ Rules 2006, the minimum land requirement for product-specific SEZ is 250 acres. However, Foxconn required only 100 acres. This is insufficient to qualify for SEZ. At that time, the Motorola proposal was in a very early stage.

In order to enable Foxconn to get the SEZ status, the likely land requirement of several other electronic projects, including Motorola, was taken into account to reach the minimum required level of 250 acres for forming an SEZ," he said. The State Government was trying to get the Centre's approval for the SEZ within a week's time.

Ms. Jayalalithaa recalled that a few days before the scheduled date for signing of the MoU with Foxconn, the Model Code of Conduct came into force. The Election Commission gave clearance for signing the MoU on the condition that no publicity would be given in the media. "On this condition, the MoU was signed in my presence solely with the intention of benefiting the people of Tamil Nadu," she said.

"The Foxconn investment for the project was Rs.485 crore, it being the flagship company in which Motorola was but a segment of the mega project."

The Foxconn project was designed to provide job opportunities for more than 10,000 persons, while the Motorola project would provide jobs for only 7,250.

"A perusal of the minutes of the Cabinet meeting will clearly reveal that it was resolved that an extent of land was to be given to Foxconn, of which a certain portion of land was to be earmarked for Motorola. Thus, it can be seen that even this Motorola project was brought to Tamil Nadu as a result of my efforts," Ms. Jayalalithaa said.

Mr. Karunanidhi clarified that his Government was prepared to extend all assistance to Foxconn to enable the company to set up its facility in Tamil Nadu.