Trivandrum Airport Row: Kerala CM Writes to PM; Min Gives ‘Facts’

This comes after the Cabinet’s move to hand over operation of the airport to a private bidder.

4 min read
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan. 

The political sparring over the Union Cabinet's decision to hand over the operation and supervision of the Thiruvananthapuram Airport through public-private partnership mode intensified on Thursday, 20 August, with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan shooting off a fresh letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"It is requested that you may kindly intervene to reconsider the decision to hand over the management and operation of the Trivandrum International Airport to a private bidder, despite the state government having the requisite experience to manage airports efficiently," the Kerala CM wrote in his letter after holding an all-party meeting on the issue.

“The near consensus that emerged in the meeting was that considering the assistance which the state has rendered wholeheartedly, the central government shouldn’t have ignored the rightful claim of the former for management and operation of the Trivandrum International Airport. The grievance of the people of the state is more, when considered against the fact that the state government through its SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle), which participated in the bid, had expressed willingness to match the offer of the highest bidder.”
Kerala CM’s letter to PM

In a statement on the all-party meeting, the chief minister's office had said, "“All parties, except BJP, have opposed the privatisation of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. The all-party meeting has decided to continue the legal actions and move together against privatisation of the international airport.”

What the Civil Aviation Minister Said

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri weighed in on the issue with a series of tweets earlier on Thursday. Saying that "parallel narratives can be no match for facts," Puri gave a detailed account of the process for the leasing out the airport.

"... despite special provision of RoFR (Right of First Refusal) being given to Government of Kerala, they could not qualify in international bidding process carried out in a transparent manner," he said in a tweet.

Trivandrum Airport Row: Kerala CM Writes to PM; Min Gives ‘Facts’
Trivandrum Airport Row: Kerala CM Writes to PM; Min Gives ‘Facts’

Other Politcos React

Retweeting Hardeep Puri's Twitter thread, Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor said:

Trivandrum Airport Row: Kerala CM Writes to PM; Min Gives ‘Facts’

Meanwhile, Union Minister V Muraleedharan said the Kerala CM's opposition to the airport's privatisation has exposed his double standards as 'private airports' already exist in Kannur and Calicut districts of the state, reported PTI.

State Finance Minister Thomas Isaac took to Twitter to say that the PMO's promise to accept the Kerala government's proposal had been broken. “People of Kerala will not accept this act of brazen cronyism,” he tweeted.

Trivandrum Airport Row: Kerala CM Writes to PM; Min Gives ‘Facts’

Kerala CM’s Earlier Letter

In an earlier letter to PM Modi, Kerala CM Vijayan urged him to reconsider the decision to hand over the Thiruvananthapuram airport to the Adani group, saying it would be ‘difficult’ to co-operate with the decision, reported PTI.

On 19 August, the central government approved a proposal to lease airports in Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram to public-private partnerships. As per the proposal, the management of the Kerala airport will be handed over to Adani.

Adani also won the rights to run five other airports in a competitive bidding process in February 2019.

"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," the letter said.

“I request your good self to intervene at this stage so that the decision taken now is reconsidered,” it further read.

"We had requested delinking the Trivandrum International Airport from the proposal to operate in PPP mode or allow the SPV of the state government to have the right to first refusal in order to match the quote of the highest bidder. None of these have been considered," the letter further said.

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