The BJP's demand that the Palakkad unit of the Instrumentation Limited (IL), a public sector undertaking (PSU) which the central government is closing down, should not be taken over by the Kerala government has come under heavy criticism.
The demand was made by K Surendran, the BJP Kerala General Secretary, after the RSS-affiliated union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) moved the court to prevent the takeover of the company by the State government.
Ever since the Palakkad unit of the Instrumentation Limited was set up at Kanjikode in 1974, the unit had been generating profits. The Palakkad unit generated profits of Rs 163 crore in the last 20 years. But the central government decided to close down the PSU, saying that the parent company headquartered in Kota, Rajasthan, has been making losses.
Following this, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front government of Kerala expressed its willingness to take over the IL Palakkad unit, and an agreement between the state and the centre was reached that the Kerala government would take over the PSU.
But the BMS went to court, following which the court issued a stay order on the handover of the company. As the BMS move came under fire, K Surendran held a press conference at Palakkad and claimed that there are hidden motives behind the handover effort.
Speaking to Newsclick about the BJP stand, K Surendran said, "What is the basis on which the demand is made that the company, worth Rs. 350 crore, should be handed over to the State government for Rs. 16 crore? It is a profit-making company, and should be retained in the central public sector."
About the centre's decision to shut down the IL's Kota unit, he said that the Kota unit has been loss-making for a very long time.
Asked whether the BJP is demanding that the Kota unit of the company should be re-opened, he said, "We need not talk about it. We are talking about Kerala now."
MB Rajesh, the CPI(M) MP from Palakkad who took a leading role in initiating the steps to retain the company in the public sector, lashed out at the BJP’s stand. The Prime Minister himself had rejected the demand to retain the company in the public sector, he said.
Responding to K Surendran’s remarks about the company being handed over for Rs. 16 crore, Rajesh told Newsclick that the price was the one which the central and state governments have agreed upon. An assessment of the assets and liabilities of the company was done, and Rs 16 crore is the amount that the State government has to pay as per the agreement reached.
Earlier in a Facebook post, Rajesh had said that the proposal that the State government should take over IL Palakkad was put forward when every other option was exhausted. The central government has been taking steps to privatise several PSUs. “Isn't the claim that the same central government would retain Instrumentation Limited in the public sector like saying that the fox would save the hen?” Rajesh asked.
Here is MB Rajesh’s post in full, translated from Malayalam:
“BJP leader K Surendran's self-goal when he came to Palakkad took me by surprise. I had not expected this much! Surendran held a press conference and said that the state government should not be allowed to take over the Palakkad unit of the Instrumentation Limited which is running in profits. He also revealed that Sri Kummanam Rajasekharan [the BJP Kerala President] wrote to the Prime Minister demanding this. I am immensely grateful to Surendran for openly stating all these.
Surendran's statement validates my argument that the central government is trying to sabotage the state government's takeover of the Palakkad Unit of Instrumentation Limited by foregrounding BMS, and that the attempt is to shut it down just as the unit in Kota in BJP-ruled Rajasthan was closed down. It is now clear that not just BMS, but the BJP in Kerala is also involved in this sabotage effort.
Here are some questions to Shri Surendran, who has been engaging in hollow talk by saying in the same breath that the unit should not be handed over to Kerala government and that the unit should be retained in the central public sector.
● Who decided that the Palakkad unit of the Instrumentation Limited should not be retained in the central public sector? Isn't it your own central government? Isn't it the central government which shut down the Kota unit? Did the workers, or I, or the Kerala government say that the unit should not be retained in the central public sector?
● The first demand that the union representatives and I raised with the Prime Minister in person and in writing was that Instrumentation Limited should remain a central PSU. Does Surendran not know it, or is he pretending to not know?
● The Prime Minister not only rejected the demand that IL should be retained in the central public sector, but also refused to even heed the demand that the company should at least be merged into the Bharat Heavy Electrics Limited (BHEL). Isn't it a shame that the leader of the PM's party does not know this?
● The proposal to hand over the unit to the State government was put forward when the Prime Minister asked whether there is any other proposal to retain the Palakkad unit. This was accepted by the PM. (I had also written a post thanking the PM.) Is Surendran incapable of understanding this?
● When I put forward the proposal to save the institution at a point when all other options had been exhausted and the PM accepted it, BJP people had celebrated it as his large-heartedness. Now they are saying that this should not be done. Isn't this ridiculous?
● Surendran is eager to allege hidden motives behind my intervention to handover the company to the State government. Isn't he thus making an allegation against the Prime Minister, who agreed to hand over the company to the State government, as well? Or is it the case that Surendran thinks that the PM made a mistake by agreeing to the handover proposal, thinking that the State government would actually not accept it?
● Now to Surendran's joke of the year, that Kerala is taking over the Palakkad unit to privatise it. I challenge Surendran – can he name a single public sector unit which was privatised by the LDF government of Kerala?.
● While the centre's policy has been to close loss-making PSUs and to sell profit-making PSUs, the Pinarayi government is implementing the alternative policy of turning loss-making PSUs profitable and to open closed down public sector units. Why is it that Surendran alone doesn't understand this?
● The central government aims to raise Rs 7200 crore by selling public sector shares, and is moving to privatise Air India, the Railways, BEML and HAL. Isn't the claim that the same central government would retain Instrumentation Limited in the public sector like saying that the fox would save the hen?
● Even considering all these, I have no problem if Surendran, Kummanam, Kannanthanam [Alphons Kannanthanam, the BJP Union Minister from Kerala], Suresh Gopi [actor and BJP MP] and so on intervene and retain IL Palakkad in the public sector. I would actually support and cooperate with such a move. That would in fact reduce the financial liability of the Kerala government. I wouldn't keep troubling you by asking where you were all these months when the Kota unit was shut down and the Palakkad unit was about to be shut down.
So, all of you together would convince Modi and retain IL Palakkad in the public sector, right? For sure? If you give the word, you should stick to the word. All the best.”