Mumbai: With the Shiv Sena lending a
political thrust to the campaign against Jaitapur nuclear
project, there is growing unease in the ruling Congress-NCP
combine over the issue taking form of a `Sena versus Narayan
A large section in the Congress as also the NCP wants
chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to be seen in complete charge
of efforts to defuse the situation obtaining in Jaitapur after
April 18 police firing on protesters which claimed one life
and to dispel the impression that industries minister Rane was
party`s pointsman for the project.
Rane, a former Maharashtra chief minister, who quit
the Sena in 2005 to join Congress, has been accused by the
Opposition of "orchestrating atrocities" on the locals
reluctant to part with their land for the project.
"Rane used the government machinery to put down
popular protests against the project and orchestrated
atrocities against those opposed to it," senior Sena leader
and MLA Subhash Desai said.
"Locals were bound to get angry when those protesting
against the project are threatened and their protests stifled
with force," said Sanjay Raut, editor of party mouthpiece
"Saamna" and Sena Rajya Sabha member.
The death in police firing and a successful bandh
called by the Sena the next day prompted Minister of
Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh to issue a statement in
which he said that public concern over Jaitapur was genuine
and even suggested a "pause" for the project till a
transparent atomic policy is formulated.
"We cannot abandon the project. But I am neither
pleading reversal or fast progression as a pause is the best
option till a transparent nuclear policy is formulated",
Rane`s statement that 11 corporate houses had offered
Rs 500 crore to the Sena to thwart the project only added fuel
to the fire as the saffron party was quick to turn the
allegation to its advantage, saying it reflected government`s
indifference to people`s genuine concerns over their safety
after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The Congress and NCP share the view that Shiv Sena
has appropriated the leadership of the anti-Jaitapur campaign
to cut Rane to size as also to test its popularity before the
zilla parishad and panchayat samiti polls to be held later
this year and elections to ten municipal corporations
including the prestigious Mumbai civic body in early 2012.
`However, the Sena says there is no politics involved
in its agitation and that it is the people who have given the
party the leadership of the movement.
"It is the people who have given the leadership of the
movement to our party. The Jaitapur-Madban area is not
dominated by Shiv Sena. The majority of locals opposed to the
project are Muslims who have never voted for Shiv Sena. The
issue concerns their livelihood and survival. How can anybody
bring politics in this," he said.
Noting that the Sena was never opposed to development,
Raut said most dams, roads and highways were constructed in
the state when Shiv Sena-BJP combine was in power. "However,
Jaitapur is a different issue. We have examples of Fukushima and
Chernobyl nuclear disasters," he said.