THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Despite the fact that the State Government is upbeat over the Centre sanctioning the Viability Gap Fund (VGF) for the proposed Vizhinjam Port project, all is not well with the project, according to BJP leader and former Union Minister O Rajagopal, who had personally taken up the case with Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking to implement the project as one of the Centre’s priority projects.
Speaking to Express here on Friday, Rajagopal said that a Dubai-based lobby which wants to protect the interests of Colombo and Singapore Ports were taking every efforts to torpedo the Vizhinjam project.
“The black money parked in Swiss Banks has been brought to Dubai. Forces which want to protect the interests of Colombo and Singapore ports are behind this lobby. The more disappointing factor is that this lobby has strong influence on a section of people in the State Government. They want to ensure that Vizhinjam remains a non-starter,” he said.
The UPA Government had been taking a negative attitude to the Vizhinjam project in the past 10 years as there was strong lobbying against it, mainly from the DMK Ministers as they wanted to protect the interests of the Thoothukudi port.
“When I met Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few weeks ago in New Delhi to present the case of Vizhinjam, the PM had asked me whether the State Government was really serious about the project,” he said.
“Our State Governments in the past 10 years could not present our case effectively.
Moreover, the Dubai lobby also had deeply influenced the Union Government officials against the Vizhinjam port,” he said.
“When I presented the case of Vizhinjam, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of the officials concerned and discussed the issue in detail. The officials were arguing that Vizhinjam port would not be viable citing the example of Vallarpadom project,” he said.
Rajagopal said that because of his initiatives, by the time the Ministers led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy met the Prime Minister seeking the VGF, the PM was convinced of the importance of the port.
“Minister K C Joseph told me that during their meeting with the PM, they could feel the Rajagopal effect,” he said. Asked whether his party here was equally appreciative of his efforts on Vizhinjam and other developmental projects, Rajagopal said that they might not have gone through the technical details of the project. When pointed out that there is lack of clarity about Centre’s stake in the project, he said it was the Centre’s interest which prompted it to sanction the VGF.
“But, I don’t know how much stake the Centre would claim in the project,” he added.