Vishwajit’s IIT about-turn could upset BJP applecart

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SOIRU VELIP | NT

Panaji

Health Minister Vishwajit Rane’s push for shifting the IIT project out of Melauli village in Sattari taluka has put Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in a fix.

The differences on the IIT conundrum could become a major setback for the state government, and could drive a wedge between the Chief Minister and the Health Minister.

The vehement opposition to the project in Sattari taluka and across the state pushed the Valpoi MLA to make a U-turn: Rane had supported the project, but now has demanded that the project be moved out of the taluka.

He has eschewed visiting Melauli since the protests erupted against the project.

On Tuesday, he first released a video and then wrote a letter to the Chief Minister urging him to shift the project out of Shel-Melauli.

Rane’s about-turn has put the BJP and Sawant in an embarrassing situation.

The Health Minister, who is currently out of Goa, has not been in touch with local BJP leaders after he declared his opposition to the IIT campus project. 

Interestingly Sawant has also not reacted to the U-turn made by his cabinet colleague.

When asked whether the Health Minister spoke to the party before announcing his opposition to the project, BJP state president Sadanand Shet Tanawade answered in negative.

He said that Rane is currently out of the state, and that it is not appropriate to talk to him over the phone on such an important

matter. “Once he comes back to Goa, the party will call him and discuss the matter pertaining to his opposition to the project in his constituency,” Tanawade explained.

Political observers said the new development could trigger a crisis within the party as the stand taken by Rane, who had himself in August 2019 proposed the site to the government for the IIT campus, amounts to being against the government policy.

They said that Rane has been compelled to renege on his support to the project because he has realised that if he continued supporting setting up of the campus at Melauli then it could harm him politically in the 2022 assembly elections.

The political observers opined that Rane could take a strong political decision before the assembly elections if the government fails to shift the project from Sattari.

Riding roughshod over the protests for more than eight months, the Chief Minister and the Health Minister had been putting their feet down on the project.

The Melauli villagers have all along claimed that the project has been proposed on the land that has been “owned” by them even before Goa’s Liberation and that they have cultivated the land for decades.

But the government has been unmoved and has directed officials to carry out demarcation of the project site.