Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on Saturday gave a two-month deadline to the Centre to sanction a steel plant in his state at Kadapa as per a provision in the AP Reorganisation Act. Otherwise, his government would start the project on its own without waiting for the Centre’s support.
CM Naidu was addressing a gathering of party workers and the public in Kadapa town where he offered a glass of lime juice to TDP Rajya Sabha MP C.M. Ramesh who called off his 11-day fast for achieving the steel plant in the district. There have been public protests for Kadapa steel plant which was promised to the state when combined Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated. Ramesh launched the fast unto death protest after the Union steel and mines ministry told the Supreme Court recently that it was not possible to set up a steel plant at Kadapa. The MECON (Metallurgical and Engineering Consultants India Limited), a central public sector unit, had submitted a report to the Centre to that extent.
Both the ruling TDP and opposition YSR Congress have been holding protests for the last few weeks demanding a steel plant in Rayala Seema and scores of non-political outfits too have joined the chorus. The AP Reorganisation Act had directed the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) to examine the steel plant proposal.
The SAIL had commissioned MECON to study the proposal, but the latter found that iron ore deposits in and around Kadapa were of inferior quality and the rate of return on the plant would be far below the market standards. However, the consultants had opined there was a scope to set up a 3 million tonnes (MT) capacity plant at Kadapa.
CM Naidu launched an attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for refusing to meet his party MPs when they tried to get an appointment with him in New Delhi on Thursday. “We will show what we can do soon and we should get a government that sanctions a steel plant to us at the earliest after the elections,” said Naidu.
His son and AP minister Nara Lokesh said that people of the state would teach a lesson to the Centre and his father Chandrababu Naidu would decide the next PM after the elections.
Union Steel Minister Chaudhary Birendra Singh who made a telephonic appeal to Ramesh to call off the fast on Thursday said that the government of AP should not assume that the Centre had ruled out the setting up of a steel plant at Kadapa. “What we have told the SC was that the MECON report was not in favour of a project but we will get another study done,” said Singh.
CM Naidu is trying to build a political campaign around the steel plant issue and is planning to commence work after September first week with funds from the state exchequer. Naidu, according to sources close to him, knows well that the project work cannot move ahead with state funds alone, but the gesture would yield political dividends in the coming elections. The steel plant is estimated to cost around Rs 12,000 crore at the originally planned 40 MT capacity, but would definitely require a minimum Rs 5,600 crore to start with in a phased manner. By allocating around Rs 3,000 crore, the CM plans to begin the work and urge SAIL to take up a share in the project, sources said.