RAIPUR: The Ashok Gehlot government is scrambling to avoid an electricity blackout in Rajasthan following a stalemate of three significant coal projects around Hasdeo Arand area of Chhattisgarh, with barely seven-day coal quota in stocks for power production as Congress pins blame on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for simmering discontent in two states.
The development comes at a time when Chattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel and his adversary TS Deo are showing signs of a thaw to put up a united face while accusing AAP of double standards on the contentious issue.
With a visible stress in his voice, Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RRVUNL) CMD RK Sharma on Saturday looked extremely worried as he told The New Indian, that “Rajasthan has only five to seven days coal stock left”.
“RRVUNL has total capacity of 7,580 MW, of which 4,340 MW comes from Chattisgarh, which is 57 per cent of the total. So you can imagine, the volume coming to Rajasthan from Chattisgarh. If for any reason this coal supply is disrupted, then Rajasthan will face power shortage,” Sharma warned.
The CMD pointed out that the coal mines projects allocated to Rajasthan in Chhattisgarh are a national heritage and national resources must be respected.
Congress is now saying that Kejriwal-led party is begging before the Centre for power allocation from NTPC’s coal fired stations but is fueling sentiments to stall similar power projects in the mineral- rich region that can benefit other states in India.
While Deo on June 7, during a visit to the Hasdeo Arand area in Surguja district, came out in support of locals who were opposing coal mine projects and said that he will be the first to take a bullet if fired on the protestors, putting his own party in soup, he is now taking potshots at AAP.
“Opposing a project for cutting trees and seeking electricity at a cheaper price are two different issues. Some parties and people are trying to mix the issues,” Deo told the New Indian.
Allocation of coal mines from country’s largest coal producing state Chhatisgarh to Rajasthan is not new.
While the UPA government had allocated three first coal mines to Rajasthan in 2007-08, one of them — Parsa East Kete Basan (PEKB) — was finally made operational as part of Phase 1 in 2015. Subsequently, the NDA government followed the suit and allocated two more mines Parsa and Kente Extension to Rajasthan to meet its coal requirement and develop backward Surguja district in Chhatisgarh.
As part of Phase 2, the Baghel government in March this year only announced environmental clearances for PEKB as coal reserves exhausted in first phase. Rajasthan is expected to generate close to 30,000 direct and indirect jobs and pay hundreds of crores of taxes to Chhattisgarh government once all its three blocks begin operations.
RRVUNL officials now say Rajasthan already been running several CSR initiatives and planting lakhs of trees in Chhattisgarh to meet the regulatory requirements.
“This controversy will die down. AAP has no stakes and they want to raise their stocks by talking of non issues,” Chattisgarh Congress in-charge P L Punia told The New Indian.
Sources in Chattisgarh Congress also say that even Deo and Baghel may resolve their differences for project’s clearance considering Rajasthan, a Congress-ruled state that goes to polls late next year, is routinely facing backlash from locals over deteriorating power situation.
An upset Baghel had even told critics, including AAP and some protestors from outside states, to first switch off AC, fans and lights in their own houses, before stopping such projects.
Bolstered by Baghel’s public stand , some locals around Rajasthan government’s mine projects recently wrote to Rahul Gandhi and others to keep outsiders away from Surguja so that projects can take off soon and they get jobs.
Which is why the Congress has hardened its stance against AAP.
“AAP does not have a sincere and honest position on any issues of national importance. They are inconsistent. If they would have any principles then they would have brought Lokpal in Delhi. AAP’s birth happened out of a revolution during Anna Hazare movement. Now, they are only concerned over their political ambitions and amassing money. They speak something in Punjab over mining, exactly the opposite on SYL in Delhi and quite another in Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh over power. When they to go to Rajasthan, they keep raising a banner of protest saying it is plunging into darkness, when we clear the Chhatisgarh coal mine project, they oppose saying it’s being awarded to this private player or that. AAP leaders travel in the business class tickets in flights. Check out their posh lifestyle, they only stay in five star hotels or use Punjab exchequer to foot their hotel and food bills,” said Dharmendra Singh Thakur, Congress spokesperson, launching an attack on AAP.
AAP’s Chhattisgarh chief Komal Hupendi however has taken an aggressive posturing on coal production even as Baghel administration accuses him of putting a spanner in development projects of the state.
“At the same time, AAP’s Rajasthan unit through its twitter handle has been promising free electricity for everyone in the state, if it is elected to power in next state elections – which is more than a year away in December 2023. They lie to people by using freebies, but would derail projects in other states,” said another Congress official.
“In Delhi and Punjab, AAP’s promise of free electricity appealed to the voters. And the state can procure electricity at an affordable tariff only it can get power produced from coal. AAP’s conflicting positions in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will only antagonise the voters. After all, Rajasthan will have to import expensive coal or purchase electricity from energy exchange at a high tariff. On the other hand, derailment of Rajasthan’s three mines projects in Chhattisgarh means unemployment for thousands of locals in the coal rich state,” said in Baghel’s office.
“While the Centre and Baghel government have already given the necessary approvals, Rajsathan is facing resistance in Chhattisgarh from some that is seeking uninterrupted and cheaper electricity in Rajasthan. AAP plays dual politics everywhere. Their staff and people live in plush houses, brazenly travel by sedans and SUVs, launch clubs and bring overhaul in excise policies but change their stance when they have to topple any government,” officials added.