Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to re-lay the foundation stone of Barmer Refinery and Petrochemical Complex on January 14, which Sonia Gandhi, former AICC president, had also laid in March 2013.
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has been holding meetings of party leaders, ministers and senior officials in regard to PM’s visit.
Meanwhile, local administration in Barmer is working overnight to lay roads, clean surroundings and build a helipad in the area.
A joint venture to set up the refinery was signed between Rajasthan government and the HPCL in August. As per the agreement, HPCL will have a 74 per cent stake while the state government will hold a 26 per cent stake in the new firm that will be called HPCL Rajasthan Refinery Limited (HRRL). The total project cost is Rs 43,129 crore.
A demand to set up a refinery in Barmer is old one given the fact that it has yielded oil, but experts have often cautioned against it saying the oilfields may not be left with enough oil by the time a refinery-cum -petrochemical complex comes up. Besides, there are refineries in Gujarat and Punjab.
Congress government headed by Ashok Gehlot had promised to build a refinery by December 2017 when it laid the foundation stone in March 2013 hoping that it will help it get a lot of votes. However, Congress was wiped out badly proving that the last minute laying of foundation stones do not influence voters always.
Raje, which took over as chief minister in December 2013, reviewed the agreement with HPCL as she felt that state was giving too many concessions besides putting up money. The reworked deal seems to be tilted in favour of state government with a saving running into tens of thousands of crore depending upon production of the oil.
Congress, meanwhile, scoffs at the reworked deal and it fresh foundation ceremony.
Sachin Pilot, PCC president, says BJP fears to lose the three by-elections due on January 29 as also assembly polls in December 2018.”So it wants to ride on shoulders of Prime Minister by calling him here,” he says.
Gehlot has been hitting hard on BJP government accusing it of delaying the project. He says the talk of saving money was nothing, but jugglery of figures.
The refinery never took off the ground during Congress regime, but Raje wants that it should start coming up quickly so that people realise that it’s not a poll gimmick. Besides, if construction begins, it will also give a boost to the local economy and generate jobs which have taken a hit once oil exploration unit of Cairns India was completed.