The Airports Authority of India's (AAI) signing of a concessions deal with the Adani Group involving three airports even as the Supreme Court was hearing a case against privatising one of them went against federalism, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said today. He also hit out at the Central government for neglecting the state's demands in this context.
The Adani Group and AAI on Tuesday signed the agreements for the management, operations, and development of the Guwahati, Jaipur, and Thiruvananthapuram airports. The "concessionaires" were required for the three facilities to fulfill certain conditions within 180 days from January 19, 2021, an AAI press release had said.
However, Mr Vijayan saw the deal as a result of the Centre's own "deep interest" in the matter.
"Kerala government has approached the Supreme Court against the privatisation of Thiruvananthapuram airport. The case is under the consideration but the Central government has signed the agreement due to its deep interest in this matter," Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the state Assembly today, according to ANI.
"The Central government is continuously taking a stand against federal principles. It is neglecting the state's demands," he said answering queries in the assembly.
Thiruvananthapuram International Airport was among the six facilities for which the Adani Group had won the lease for 50-years through bidding in February 2019. The bids were invited by AAI for a public-private partnership model of operation based on fees per domestic passengers.
The Kerala government opposed the privatisation. Chief Minister Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking the Centre to reconsider its decision. Since Kerala had rendered assistance to the airport wholeheartedly, including provision of pockets of land at various stages, the Kerala government had the rightful claim on the management and operation of the airport, he said.
The opposition to privatisation comes from both the dominant political groups of the state - the Left Democratic Front and the rival Congress-led United Democratic Front, with Congress leader Shashi Tharoor being the lone backer of the idea.
After the Kerala High Court initially dismissed its petition against privatisation of the airport, the state government formed the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, an SPV, to participate in the bidding. However, the Adani Group won the bidding for all six airports.
In November, the Kerala government challenged the leasing out of the airport in the Supreme Court.