Paradip refinery inauguration: What are BJD and BJP taking credit for, asks Niranjan

BHUBANESWAR: Senior Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik on Thursday questioned the contest between BJP and BJD to take credit for the establishment of the oil refinery at Paradip scheduled to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 7.

“What is their real contribution?’ asked the former minister.

“The idea of setting up a port-based oil refinery in Odisha was first mooted by the Congress government in 1985 when I was the Industry minister and implemented after 1995 when Congress returned to power,” said Patnaik.

A team of state officials under the Industry minister had visited Mumbai in 1985 and held discussions with Reliance, Hinduja and other prospective investors. The Union government was also requested for investment by the Indian Oil Corporation.

The state government’s effort had borne fruit and two proposals for port-based oil refineries had materialised. The first was to be established by a private investor near Gopalpur Port and the second by IOC near Paradeep Port. The private company withdrew later, he added.

During 95-98, central government agreed for IOC to invest and land acquisition commenced.

IOC wanted the same patch of land that has now been acquired by the state government for the POSCO plant.

“After visiting the identified land and discussing with local people and prominent leaders, I had told then Chief Minister J.B.Patnaik that the acquisition of the land would go against farmers’ interest, and there will be a lot of opposition, which can cause delay,” said Patnaik.

IOC had threatened to pull out if the land identified was not handed over to them. They had, in fact, shelved the entire proposal for nearly six months. The central government had also put a lot of pressure on the state. But, because of a clear view and foresight of the state government alternative land was selected and handed over, said the Congress leader.

If the present government had shown similar foresight, Posco project would not have failed. After the land was handed over IOC had started work. The state government had requested then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to lay the foundation stone, but the ceremony was delayed.

Finally, Vajpayee laid the foundation stone in 2002. But, very little money was made available for the establishment of the refinery and instead the refinery capacity was curtailed. It is only under UPA that the necessary finances were made available, and the project took off.

“the Congress government initiated the project in the state. The then state government acquired the land, and the UPA government provided finances for constructing the refinery at the centre, and now BJP and BJD want to take credit. How much more farcical can it get?”

“Let not politics distort history,” stated Niranjan and said that he was forced to clarify facts not to take credit, but since BJP and BJD are busy in trying to take credit and in the process, they are creating a narrative bundled in falsehoods.

In fact, what BJD should answer for is their inability to provide land to Posco for which the state lost huge investment”, said the former PCC President.