Sunday, 17 August 2014

Eye on Assembly polls, Modi invokes Shivaji link with Raigad

MUMBAI: Prime minister Narendra Modi virtually kicked off the BJP's campaign for the Maharashtra Assembly elections during his visit to Mumbai on Saturday, with a touch of Marathi, several references to Shivaji and a lineup of major projects guaranteed to generate employment in the state.

The foundation stone-laying ceremonies of the Rs 4,000-crore port-based multi-product SEZ and its major component, the Rs 1,900-crore Port Connectivity Highway Project, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Raigad district, also gave the PM opportunity for a verbal duel with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. The CM, who spoke before Modi, said 23 of the 146 SEZ applicants in the state had abandoned plans due to unfavourable policies, adding taxation clarity, especially on dividend distribution tax, was a key hindrance, requesting the Centre to bring necessary policy changes. Modi in his repartee, wondered why the state government was unable to persuade the previous Congress-led UPA government to effect these changes.

Both at JNPT and at the Naval Dockyard for the commissioning of the Indian Navy's 7,500-tonne destroyer, INS Kolkata, Modi invoked Chhatrapati Shivaji. Addressing members on the dais at JNPT in Marathi, he followed it with: "My first public programme in Maharashtra is from the land of Shivaji, in Raigad district." At the Naval Dockyard he said being in Maharashtra and talking of the Navy, one had to remember the great Maratha king Shivaji, who conceived the navy to secure India's maritime trade.

Registering the presence of the Shiv Sena, the BJP's state ally, were Anant Geete, minister of heavy industries and public enterprises and local Sena MP, Shrirang Barane. Also present were the BJP's Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde, opposition leaders in the state assembly and council respectively.

Pointing out that the Indian Ocean currently accounted for two-thirds of the oil trade and 50% of container traffic, Modi said growth centres should be integrated, with ports as catalysts and highlighted the "Sagarmala" project.

Union minister of shipping, road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari announced JNPT will build three satellite ports to further integrate trade: one at Surat and two dry ports at Aurangabad and Wardha (where cargo will be moved by train). Gadkari said cargo worth Rs 16,000 crore from or to the Marathwada region passes through JNPT, while over Rs 8,500 crore-worth of goods come through Nagpur annually, adding Surat also contributes significantly to the cargo passing through JNPT.

Earlier, commissioning the indigenously designed warship INS Kolkata at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai, Modi said, "No country will dare a war with India after witnessing its growing defence capabilities". INS Kolkata is the largest destroyer to be operated by the Indian Navy. The warship was built at Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL)—India's premier warship-building yard—and incorporates modern weapons and sensors with an advanced information warfare suite, an auxiliary control system and modular crew quarters.

He said INS Kolkata will be a great communication platform and will be useful in securing India's trade interests at sea.

Also speaking at the ceremony, defence minister Arun Jaitley said, "The world's best arms and equipment manufacturers will be invited to set up manufacturing facilities in India and a day will come when India will be completely self-reliant in defence production. A day will come when India will export the same."



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