With Konkan farmers protesting against the Nanar oil refinery project outside the Vidhan Bhavan in Nagpur, the Shiv Sena on Wednesday adopted an aggressive stand in the state Assembly, bringing the proceedings of the House to a halt. The move came a day after the party was embarrassed in the legislative Council, after being snubbed by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis over the project.
Assembly speaker Haribhau Bagade adjourned the Assembly for the day after two Sena legislators – Rajan Salvi and Pratap Sarnaik – and Congress legislator and son of senior politician Narayan Rane, Nitesh Rane, went up to the speaker’s podium to snatch the mace. A scuffle broke out with the three legislators pulling the mace and a Vidhan Bhavan staffer and later security personnel trying to retain it. In the ensuing fracas, one of the staffers fell on a chair, bringing down the legislator sitting on it. A majority of the Sena legislators were in the well of House, shouting slogans against the Nanar oil refinery project, even as party ministers, including public works minister Eknath Shinde, minister of state for finance Deepak Kesarkar and transport minister Diwakar Raote, remained mute spectators.
The trouble started earlier in the day, when Sena legislators sought time from the Speaker to raise the oil refinery project issue, instead of the scheduled reply of the animal husbandry minister, Sadabhau Khot, on supplementary demands. With Bagade refusing to allow Sena MLA from Ratnagiri, Rajan Salvi, to register his protest, party legislators rushed into the well of the House and shouted slogans. The House got adjourned four times over the issue before the final adjournment.
“We have every right to register our protest. The Speaker refused to give us an opportunity to register our protest, which led to the ruckus in the House. The Nanar oil refinery will destroy Konkan. We are against it and will continue to oppose it,” said Sena legislator Sunil Prabhu, defending his party’s legislators.
Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, leader of the Opposition, who had moved an adjournment motion against the project, termed the Sena’s tactic a “stunt” and challenged the party to walk out of the government if it was sincere about its opposition to the refinery.
Rane, who hails from Konkan, said, “I want this project to be scrapped. Two of the villages that will be included in the project are in my constituency. Even otherwise, this project will destroy Konkan, which is why I protested. As the Speaker was not listening, I took the mace.”
The project is envisaged to come up on 15,000 acres of land across 14 villages in Ratnagiri and 2 villages in Sindhudurg district of Konkan. The Sena holds sway in the region and is on the backfoot over the project, with locals opposed to the land acquisition. The Konkan Refinery Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, one of the two organisations of project-affected persons, held a sit-in dharna close to Vidhan Bhavan. Sena legislators participated in this agitation and met the protesters.
“The chief minister has claimed in the legislative Council that the government has consent letters of farmers owning 2,500 acres of land here. I challenge him to release the list. No farmer is keen on selling land for the project. Some of the land has been brought over by land-fixers and mafia,” said Ashok Walam, president of the samiti.
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