In a shocking allegation made in the Legislative Assembly, Maharashtra Industries Minister Narayan Rane, a former Sainik, said on Thursday that the Shiv Sena received Rs.500 crore to stage the agitation in Jaitapur.
The police firing during the protests against the proposed nuclear power plant claimed a life on Monday. The Sena has strongly backed the Jaitapur andolan.
Addressing the House on the last day of the budget session, Mr. Rane said: “Fearing that power tariffs would come down after the Jaitapur power project, 11 private power producers met a particular party and said if you stop Jaitapur we will pay you Rs.500 crore. A meeting to that effect was slated for April 3, but moved to April 9, when the advance was paid. After this, the andolan started and a vacation was planned [alluding to Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray's holiday in the Kanha Tiger Reserve while Jaitapur was tense]. Intelligence reports say the party [in question] was the Shiv Sena.”
Issuing a rebuttal, Mr. Thackeray said: “Narayan Rane's political life is over. There is no need to take note of his puerile accusations. This is a pathetic effort on his part to assert his identity. He fancies himself to be the boss of the Criminal Investigation Department.”
Taking exception to the allegations, Sena leader Subhash Desai demanded proof from Mr. Rane in the Assembly. “Leave alone Rs.500 crore. If you can prove that we received Rs.5, we are ready to face punishment.” He said if the charges were found to be false, they should be expunged from the record.
Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil said the allegations would be looked into and appropriate changes made in the records.
In a counter allegation, Mr. Desai told the House that the French company Areva, whose reactors are to be used for the power plant, had sent an email to the Centre, seeking the help of the local Congress MLAs.
“The email said they are going to come over in June to sign the agreement on their reactors. [They asked for a list of their names], saying that the local Congress MLAs had been very helpful,” Mr. Desai alleged.
Mr. Rane said that he had spoken responsibly and would give proof “at the right time.”
Asked to comment on Mr. Rane's allegations, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said: “Mr. Rane has said he would furnish proof.”
Asked if the government would rethink the project in the light of the recent violence, Mr. Chavan said: “There were two issues. One is the Centre's position and one is the State government's position. The Centre is setting up six nuclear power plants in the country, including one in Maharashtra. In the aftermath of the incident in Japan, a review of 20 reactors across the country is under way.”
Mr. Chavan said he had received a letter from the wife of Tabrez Sayekar, one of the protesters who died in the police firing. “I have said I am ready to meet anyone to address their concerns. On the day of the incident, I called the Sena leadership and requested them not to give a violent turn to the andolan.”
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said: “Some parties initially launch very strong protests. They want people to call on them, meet them and explain all aspects to them. The same thing happened with the Enron power project. The same people opposed [the project] and magically did a turn-around. This project belongs to the Centre. No one from the Centre is going to come and pay them a visit.”
When Mr. Rane hurled the charges there was no furore, no heated reactions, and eyebrows were raised over the Sena's meek protestations.
Asked at a press interaction as to whether the Jaitapur andolan had turned political, Sena leader Ravindra Waikar said the party was with the people. “We are prepared to go to the President,” he said. He termed Mr. Rane's charges “baseless” and said the Minister had the habit of making baseless allegations.