Nagpur-Mumbai Expressway: Congress slams Fadnavis for project

Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam on Friday alleged that a contractors’ cartel was favoured by the state government and the Centre to award work worth Rs 27,000 crore for the Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi Express Highway.

Addressing the media, Nirupam said: “Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has facilitated amendments in the tender process to promote only five contractors for the project. The state government owes an explanation as it was highly unethical to tweak the rules to extend favour to select private players and keep others away from contesting.”

The matter that has already been referred to the PMO and CMO should be probed, he said. The Indian Express was the first to bring the matter to light on Thursday. The report said two leading organisations in the construction industry have objected to the bidding process to award contracts to build the 701-km road. The National Highway Builders Federation and the Construction Federation of India have complained to the PMO objecting to certain provisions in the request for qualification (RFQ) document alleging that they had been tailored to favour some players.

They sought the PMO’s intervention in the matter. Both outfits had also approached the CMO and alleged that “there was an intentional and premeditated design to suppress competitiveness in the bidding process”.

Contacted by the Indian Express, Fadnavis had said he was not aware of the objections. “The bidding criteria are not decided at the government level. The MSRDC can throw light on these. But if I receive any memorandum in this regard, I’ll surely look into the merits of the case,” he said. The due date for bidding has been extended to May 31.

Nirupam said: “The developments cast a question mark on the working of the government and its tall claims about the transparency plank.” Mocking the BJP’s decision to start ‘Samvaad Yatra’ he said: “On one hand, they failed to help farmers whose tur (pulses) remain unprocured and traders reap the benefits. On the other hand, they are planning dialogue with farmers.”

The Congress has threatened a state-wide agitation to protest the hike in petrol prices. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ashok Chavan said: “Petrol prices are the highest in Maharashtra. It shows the government’s failure to tackle finances and planning.” Slamming both central and state governments, he said: “There cannot be any justification for the repeated petrol price rise.”

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