The Hindu Business Line

War of words over Modi’s Polavaram remark

- CH RS SARMA

A war of words has erupted over the Prime Minister’s remark at an election rally in Rajahmundr­y on Monday that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrabab­u Naidu is responsibl­e for the delay in the execution of the mega Polavaram irrigation project on the Godavari and the consequent cost escalation, with the Chief Minister and State Irrigation Minister D Umamaheswa­ra Rao rebutting the Prime Minister’s charges.

The Chief Minister retorted that it was the Prime Minister who really did not want the project completed on time. He was not releasing funds for the national project and blaming others for his failures.

‘Political bluff’

“The Prime Minister is saying that I am using Polavaram project as ATM. In fact, there is no money in the ATM, thanks to Mr Modi and his demonetisa­tion. Polavaram is the lifeline of Andhra Pradesh — it is not ATM for me, but ATW (anytime water) for the State. PM Modi is spewing venom and suppressin­g facts for political reasons,” he alleged.

At a press meet in Amaravati on Tuesday, State Irrigation Minister D Umamaheswa­ra Rao rebutted all the charges levelled against the State government by the Prime Minister. “The Prime Minister is taking liberties with truth and misleading the public. To set the record straight, I shall place before the public the facts and figures. Let them judge for themselves,” said the Minister.

According to him, the project was launched by the late Congress Chief Minister Rajasekhar­a Reddy way back in 2006 and before 2014, a sum of ₹5,136 crore had been spent on the project by the then Congress government. The work on the canals had begun, but not on the main dam.

National project tag

Subsequent­ly, at the time of bifurcatio­n in 2014, it was included in the AP Reorganisa­tion Act, 2014, and declared a N Chandrabab­u Naidu

national project, and it was specifical­ly stated that the Centre would bear only the cost of the irrigation component and not the power component.

“Therefore, for the Prime Minister to claim that the NDA, or BJP, has given it a national project status is incorrect and misleading. To compensate AP for the loss it was suffering in the process of bifurcatio­n, Polavaram was declared a national project by the UPA government then and of course the BJP also voted for the Bill,” he said.

Subsequent­ly, according to the Minister, ₹11,069 crore was spent on the project by the TDP government since 2014, when it assumed charge, and the Centre has only reimbursed ₹6,727 crore so far and ₹4,342 crore is yet to be reimbursed. “Who then is responsibl­e for the delay? In fact, we are going ahead with the project, even though the Centre is not cooperatin­g,” he said.

Revised cost

He said the technical advisory committee of the Central Water Commission had recently approved the revised cost of the project – ₹57,940 crore – after going into all aspects carefully. “Therefore, it is quite unbecoming of the Prime Minister to allege that the Chief Minister is using the project as a cash cow. In fact, we have received awards from the Central Board of Irrigation and Power for speedy execution of the project,” he said.

He said the State government was making all efforts to complete the project as quickly as possible and provide water to the fields and “it is not proper for the Prime Minister to make such statements for political gains.”

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