Mining magnate Anil Agarwal has said Gujarat was picked over Maharashtra for the Vedanta-Foxconn's Rs 1.52 lakh crore semiconductor project based on 'professional and independent' advice, as the political row in Maharashtra over the facility escalated on Thursday.
Seeking to soothe frayed nerves in Maharashtra after the project was shifted out of the state, Agarwal, who is the chairman of Vedanta, also said his mining group is committed to investing in Maharashtra as well.
Gujarat, he said, was chosen as it met the company's 'expectations'.
Originally, Vedanta and its Taiwanese partner Foxconn were looking at Maharashtra for setting up the chip factory but on September 13 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Gujarat government for investing Rs 1.52 lakh crore in the unit.
The facility was earlier proposed to be set up in Pune district.
Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis accused the opposition of making false claims over the shifting of the project, while Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena and the Congress stepped up its attack on the government over losing the mega deal.
Fadnavis also questioned the opposition over the Nanar refinery project proposed in Maharashtra's coastal district of Ratnagiri.
The project was opposed by the Shiv Sena.
The Thackeray-led Shiv Sena said the mega semiconductor project going to Gujarat was an attack on Maharashtra's 'prestige'.
This was just the beginning and one day the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government might even 'trade Mumbai', said a scathing editorial in Sena mouthpiece Saamana.
Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar told a press conference in Pune that the Centre's assurance to Maharashtra that it will get a bigger project than the semiconductor plant is akin to trying to 'convince a child'.
'Vedanta-Foxconn has been professionally assessing the site for a multi-billion dollar investment. This is a scientific and financial process which takes several years. We started this about two years ago,' Agarwal said in a series of tweets.
A third party was engaged to assist in selecting the site for the project.
'Our team of internal & external professional agencies shortlisted few states viz., Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, TN etc to help achieve our purpose. For last two years we have been engaging with each of these govts as well as central govt & have received fantastic support,' Agarwal said.
While he did not elaborate on Gujarat meeting the company's expectations, the mining group had wanted 1,000 acres of land free of cost, and water and power at concessionary and fixed prices for 20 years.
'We decided Gujarat few months ago as they met our expectations. But in July meeting with Maharashtra leadership, they made a huge effort to outbid other states with competitive offer. We have to start in one place & based on professional & independent advice we chose Gujarat,' Agarwal said.
This multibillion-dollar long-term investment, he said, will change the course of Indian electronics.
'We will create a pan-India ecosystem & are fully committed to investing in Maharashtra as well. Maharashtra will be our key to forward integration in our Gujarat JV'.
Fadnavis took to Twitter to say it was disappointing that 'negative, false and baseless' claims are being spread by the opposition to gain political mileage.
'This is only to hide their own incompetence. I want to ask opposition leaders, who sent back Rs 3.5 lakh crore refinery(in Nanar) from Maharashtra? My advice to these leaders is to focus on becoming competent & efficient and not negative and desperate,' said Fadnavis, who is currently in Moscow.
The Thackeray-led Shiv Sena had sided with local residents who were opposed to the refinery project.
He also welcomed Chairman Agarwal's tweet that Maharashtra will be key to 'forward integration' to the joint venture in Gujarat.
The Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress have sought to corner the Eknath Shinde-Bharatiya Janata Party government following the Tuesday announcement.
Without naming the BJP, the Saamana editorial alleged that like the Foxconn project, some people also harbour the desire to 'conquer' Mumbai-Thane and undermine Maharashtra's prosperity.
This was the reason a 'puppet chief minister' was installed in Maharashtra, it alleged.
The Congress alleged that the project was shifted to Gujarat under pressure from the Centre even as the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government had offered a better package to the company to set up the plant.
'Even though Maharashtra had offered many concessions, including more capital subsidy than Gujarat, the decision to move the project to Dholera has been made under the pressure of the central government,' Maharashtra Congress general secretary Sachin Sawant alleged in a statement
Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar accused Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray of creating a feeling of animosity for Gujaratis among Marathi-speaking people.
Taking a dig at the previous MVA government, Shelar said it had offered tax concessions on foreign liquor and had the erstwhile dispensation given incentives to the Vedanta-Foxconn project, the plant would not have moved out of Maharashtra.