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Hyderabad: The last-minute decision of Vedanta – Foxconn to shift its Rs 1.54 lakh crore venture from Maharashtra to Gujarat has triggered a huge public outcry in Maharashtra. In addition to the massive investment, the prestigious semiconductor and display manufacturing unit would have provided employment to more than one lakh people.

Political observers feel that the sudden decision of Vedanta – Foxconn would indicate deeper machinations of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in getting the plant shifted to Gujarat only because of the ensuing Assembly polls in the State. Though BJP is in alliance with the breakaway faction of Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, the fact that a major industry slipping away from Maharashtra has pushed both the Chief Minister and the BJP’s Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis into an irksome position.

In fact, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, which ruled Maharashtra till recently, had put in the hard yards to convince the Mumbai-based Vedanta to invest in the State. For the past three years or so, the Maharashtra government had been lobbying for the Foxconn semiconductor investment. In fact, Foxconn had signed a pact with the Maharashtra government to invest nearly 5 billion (Rs 500 crore) over a period of five years towards establishing an electronics manufacturing facility in Mumbai. Foxconn is reputed for its technical expertise in manufacturing smartphones and is deeply involved in manufacturing Apple phones. In fact, based on media reports, the plan was to launch a small mobile manufacturing unit in Navi Mumbai and later develop the facility. The Maharashtra government also entered into an MoU with Vedanta and had recently framed a fabrication policy to manufacture semiconductor equipment.

Given the extensive background work that was taken up in the last few years to lay a foundation for semiconductor manufacturing, the Maharashtra government believed that it was the ‘automatic’ choice and a front runner to bag the Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture, which could have created one lakh jobs. Tuesday’s deal might be a victory for the Gujarat government, but in its wake, it has made a mockery of the principles of co-operative federalism, waxed eloquent on many occasions by the BJP-led government at the Centre. The Vedanta-Foxconn venture also reminded everyone that this is not a one-off development where multi-crore projects, initially courted by other States, have inexplicably ended up in Gujarat.

Call it bipartisan politics or simply deceitful practices by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government, in the last few years, this has become a trend. There is a litany of instances where prestigious projects from a wide array of sectors have gone to Gujarat at the cost of other States.

For a long time, Telangana has been at the receiving end of such treatment. There was much anticipation around the proposal of a locomotive coach factory to Kazipet. However, the electric coach factory worth Rs 21, 969 crore was announced for Gujarat by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The decision to allocate coach factory to Gujarat invited widespread derision from all sections, prompting IT Minister KT Rama Rao to term it ‘Of Gujarat, By Gujarat, For Gujarat and To Gujarat – New definition of Modemocracy’.

The prestigious International Arbitration Centre, which was expected to be set up in Hyderabad, was allocated to Gujarat International Finance Technical (GIFT) City in the union Budget by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

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Author: Howard Caldwell