Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's opposition to Thiruvananthapuram airport's privatisation has exposed his double standards as 'private airports' already exist in Kannur and Calicut districts of the state, Union minister V Muraleedharan said on Thursday.
Vijayan has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing the Union Cabinet's approval on Wednesday to lease out the Thiruvananthapuram airport to Adani Enterprises through public private partnership (PPP) for a period of 50 years.
On Twitter, Muraleedharan also criticised the Congress' opposition to the airport's privatisation. "Kerala Congress' competitive opposition to development in Kerala is shocking. They support UPA's PPP based development of Delhi & Mumbai airports, but oppose the same now? Aren't you part of Congress?" asked the minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs.
Mullappally Ramachandran, President of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, said the move to privatise the Thiruvananthapuram airport was "deplorable". The airports in Delhi and Mumbai were privatised using the PPP model during the first term of the United Progressive Alliance in 2006.
The Centre-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) owns and manages more than 100 airports, including the one in Kerala's capital city. Muraleedharan said on Twitter, "Pinarayi Vijayan's opposition to privatization of Thiruvananthapuram airport exposed the double standards of Kerala CM."
"He is ok to have private airports at Calicut and Kannur with a mere 32.5 per cent and 30.16 per cent stakes for the state, but oppose the Centre's move with a better share for GoI (Government of India)," the Union minister added. In his letter, the Kerala chief minister has asked Modi to reconsider the decision as it would be "difficult" for the state to cooperate.
Kerala's repeated requests to entrust the airport management with the special purpose vehicle (SPV) in which the state government is the major stakeholder was also ignored, Vijayan stated.
"In view of the unilateral decision taken by the government of India without giving credence to the cogent arguments put forward by the state government, it will be difficult for us to offer cooperation to the implementation of the decision, which is against the wishes of the people of the state," Vijayan said in the letter.
On Twitter, Muraleedharan said, "Why deprive people of Thiruvananthapuram their right to better services at the airport?" Development of the airport on the PPP model will be a game-changer, he said.
"It will bring efficiency in service delivery, expertise, enterprise and professionalism,which will lead to the overall development of the city," he stated. Adani Enterprises had won the rights to run six airports, including these three – the other three being Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Mangalore – through the PPP model after a competitive bidding process in February 2019.
In July 2019, the Union Cabinet had approved the proposal for leasing out Ahmedabad, Mangalore and Lucknow airports to Adani Enterprises.