The decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to go ahead with the $44-billion petrochemical complex in collaboration with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Maharashtra's Ratnagiri district threatens to rock his Bharatiya Janata Party's alliance with Shiv Sena in the state hours after the Election Commission announced the general election schedule. The decision on the proposed world's largest petrochemical complex reached hours ahead of the EC's announcement mocks the stability of the alliance to which Shiv Sena returned in part following Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' assurance of a relook at the project, media reports say.
The BJP-led state government had put on hold 42,000 notices for land survey and acquisition involving thousands of families in 17 villages of Ratnagiri district following an electoral arrangement between Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Fadnavis. In November last year, Fadnavis told the state assembly that his government had stayed the land acquisition.
Shiv Sena's support to the villagers opposing the project was one of the key reasons for the souring of the relationship between the key National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners, the BJP and Shiv Sena.
Thackeray had come out openly against the project addressing major rallies in the affected villages. He was in support of the villagers who held demonstrations against the project claiming it could have an adverse impact on the environmentally sensitive area.
Global majors such as Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) has formed a joint venture with India's state-run oil companies like the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) holding 50 per cent stake in the Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (RRPCL). A meeting in New Delhi on Saturday, March 9, between Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Saudi counterpart and Saudi Aramco chairman Khalid A al Falih reportedly reviewed the project progress, the Business Standard reports.
"The ministers reviewed various Saudi investment proposals in the Indian oil and gas sector, including the urgent steps to be taken to expedite the implementation of the first joint venture West Coast Refinery and Petrochemical Project in Maharashtra, estimated to cost the $44 billion, which will be the largest greenfield refinery in the world," according to a government statement issued on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia's participation in the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) Program was also apparently discussed. The two countries decided to increase their tie-ups in the petroleum sector during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit to India last month. Saudi Arabia is the second largest supplier of crude and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to India.
During the meeting, Pradhan reportedly raised concerns about the increasing trend in global crude oil prices. He also stressed the need for a stable supply of crude oil and LPG to India in view of the recent production cuts by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that is traditionally controlled by Riyadh.