The Kerala government has raised objections with the Centre after the Adani Group won the bid to operate the Thiruvananthapuram Airport.

Spoke to Adani as Tpuram MP Tharoor hits back at Pinarayi over airport row
news Politics Wednesday, July 31, 2019 - 16:18

The Kerala government is at loggerheads with the Centre over handing over the right of operating the Thiruvananthapuram Airport to Adani Group. In the midst of back and forth discussions with the Centre, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reportedly expressed his displeasure over Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor of the Congress taking up with the matter with Gautam Adani, Chairman and Founder of Adani Group. It has won the bid to run five airports including Thiruvananthapuram. 

Shashi Tharoor had reportedly held negotiations with Gautam Adani to push for joint operations with the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport Ltd, a special purpose vehicle floated by the Kerala government to run the airport. 

Local media reported reactions of Chief Minister Pinarayi, who seemed displeased with the MP's move. Pinarayi was quoted as stating that Tharoor's move would pose a hindrance to the state's negotiations with the Centre regarding the airport privatisation bid. He also stated that Tharoor had neither consulted the state nor checked the decisions taken during previous discussions before meeting Adani. 

On Wednesday, Tharoor responded on Twitter that he was not representing the Kerala Chief Minister when he met Gautam Adani, but was speaking as the MP of Thiruvananthapuram about an airport in his constituency. 

"Odd: I never claimed to be an emissary of CMOKerala! I spoke to Mr Adani as MP of Thiruvananthapuram about an airport in my constituency, in the interests of the voters I represent & as part of my consistent efforts to make Thiruvananthapuram a world-class destination for travellers," his tweet read.

The Adani Enterprise Ltd won the bid to operate the Thiruvananthapuram in November 2018, when the government decided to privatise six airports owned by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in a public-private partnership model. The Adani Enterprises Ltd., which has no prior experience in airport management, won the bid to operate 5 out of the 6 airports after outbidding other players. This included the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, which bid for the Thiruvananthapuram airport at Rs 135 per passenger as against Adani’s Rs 168.

Following the outcome of the tendering process, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan claimed that the Modi-led Central government had played a hand in Adani's victory. Since then, a prolonged battle between the state and the Adani Group has been playing out over who gets to operate the airport. 

Reports suggested that the Centre ignored key recommendations of the NITI Aayog and the Finance Ministry while holding the tendering process. According to findings by The Hindu, the government had dismissed two recommendations made by the NITI Aayog and the Department of Economic Affairs - a) to hand over not more than two airports to 1 party and b) to ensure bidders have prior experience in airport management airport.

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