Maharashtra Industries Minister Subhash Desai talks about how he plans to bring investments into Maharashtra, the “unwillingness” of the Center to engage with Opposition states in drafting policies of national significance and the Shiv Sena’s commitment to renaming Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar.
Can you share some insight on the development that is taking place in the industrial sector in Maharashtra?
The state has developed a complete ecosystem for industrial development and that is the reason it is the preferred destination for investors. We have more than 1 lakh hectares of fully-developed industrial land for distribution. We are now focusing on certain sectors, including bulk drugs. We are developing a bulk drug park in Raigad district near Roha and Murud. In addition to this, we are also developing electronics parks — one in Aurangabad and another in Talegaon near Pune. We are also introducing a new IT policy, which will ensure inclusive growth for the sector and related industries and grant it relaxation in setting up businesses.
Has the political turf war that has hit Maharashtra in any way hampered the state’s image or industrialization prospects? Or is there anything on governance aspect that you are not able to take forward because of the Centre-state rift?
Political competition is something that we understand. Every one who has been deposed has the right to work to come back to power. At the same time, this effort of regaining power should not damage the image of a state. We are afraid that if these things go on and become more ugly, it will damage the state’s image.
Is Maharashtra facing problems in getting approvals from Centre, which is hampering the industrial progress of the state?
The government of India needs to take states into confidence while drafting new policies of national significance. It must hear the views of the states. That is what is lacking at this point of time. The dialogue that is needed between the two (the Center and the state) is not happening. If you take into account our views, we are not going to mislead you. We may, however, protect our state’s interest. This exchange of ideas that is needed is not taking place. If this happens, I think we can come out with robust policies.
When the present state government came to power, there was some kind of opposition to the bullet train. What is the Maharashtra government’s stand on the project now?
While creating infrastructure, which is important for the entire country you need to connect with all stakeholders. You cannot omit the aspirations of the states and what they feel. Take for example the bullet train from Ahmedabad to Mumbai. It is not a project that is Maharashtra’s priority. From the bottom of our heart, we are not excited with this link as we feel that there is hardly any rush of passengers from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. On the other hand, a bullet train between Nagpur and Mumbai would be more advantageous. That is our priority but before discussing or understanding the state’s ideas, they (Centre) just announce (projects) and make it happen. That is the whole problem. The bullet train project is a national project so how far can we push back against it? We will give it all our support but from the bottom of our heart, we are not excited with this alignment.
What is the present status of the International Financial Services Center that was to come up in Mumbai?
We are determined to have IFSC in Mumbai. We have enough land available at BKC and we have reserved it under SEZ (Special Economic Zone). Mumbai, which houses all financial institutions and leading banks, has the natural claim to IFSC. Mumbai contributed the highest national revenue to the country. I don’t want to get into a Centre-state fight. But I can state with certainty that we are going ahead with IFSC in Mumbai. We are not dropping it.
You said that the Center does not take inputs from the state. When was the last time you had a face-to-face interaction with either the Union finance minister or industries minister?
I have not met them since the MVA (Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi) government came to power. They (Centre) held some virtual meetings, that is all. But, we have not met face-to-face. This must be the story with other states as well. Maharashtra is not the only unfortunate state.
The state has come up with a Electric Vehicles police but why is there so much resistance in the government to buy such vehicles?
There are issues with the charging infrastructure that also needs to come up simultaneously. Now, there are some challenges along the highways. We need to develop infrastructure which may take some time. It is about creating confidence in the mind of the consumer that enough infrastructure is available.
You have been in Shiv Sena since the inception. Where do you see the party in the next 25 years?
I see it at the very top. We will have a one-party rule of Shiv Sena in the state much before 25 years from now. The Sena will spread in other parts of the country as well.
You mentioned that a lot of big colleges will come up in Talegaon and other second-tier cities. Is there going to be a provision/preference for local youths in terms of reservation in jobs?
We insist and put our emphasis on jobs for locals. So that policy is already there and we continuously monitor that it is being implemented. We are now introducing an IT policy which will be announced in a week or two. We have introduced a special feature in this sector that more and more jobs should be reserved for the locals because we have the manpower required for the IT sector. In this policy, we are making a special provision for job creation. The policy lays emphasis on skill development and job creation. When any big-ticket investment happens in the IT sector, it will also take care of skill development and give jobs to the locals.
What is the status of the Aramco refinery project that was to come up in Konkan?
It is taking off. Good things are happening. The CM has written to the Government of India that we are all set. The Government of India has written a letter to us that they are sending a delegation for evaluating the land for the project in Konkan. We are waiting for the delegation to arrive. Aramco has made it categorical that they want to set up the project on the Western Coast. We want a place where people want to welcome the project. We are sure that land will be approved. The delegation will hopefully come in a month’s time. Once it comes and meets our officials, a roadmap will be prepared.
There is this disquiet within the constituents of the MVA which leads to constant bickering. Doesn’t it affect the stability of this government?
See, bringing different parties together is a challenge. Every party has its own policies, thoughts, aspirations and programmes. So, some friction is bound to happen in any alliance. Be it in Delhi or any other state. We understand the differences. We must manage to live together with the differences. Our CM (Uddhav Thackeray) is skillfully handling all these factors. It will not be at the cost of existence of the government.
How do you look at the challenge posed by the MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena)?
People have realised that the MNS chief (Raj Thackeray) speaks one thing today and another the next day. He initially alienated the entire North Indian community by beating up migrants. Now suddenly, he has taken up the issue of loudspeakers which has antagonised a large section of the minority community, which, incidentally, was more comfortable with him than the Shiv Sena. At every step, he has cut himself away from communities. You can’t establish your role as a leader by cutting people off from yourself.
You are the guardian minister of Aurangabad. What is your stand on the renaming of the city?
It was Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray who had renamed Aurangabad to Sambhaji Nagar. The move has been welcomed by the common people who refer to the city as Sambhaji Nagar even without the government officially renaming it. We have also approved a resolution to name the Aurangabad airport after Chhatrapti Sambhaji. We are following it up with the Aviation Ministry. Soon, we will meet Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia (Union minister) and request him to officially announce it. The renaming of Aurangabad is on our agenda and it will happen soon. Even the Congress will support it.
Is Shiv Sena going to have an alliance for BMC elections?
Be it for Mumbai or for any other election, we plan to contest as MVA as far as possible. We will manage to win the elections.