Reiterating the demand that the Centre withdraw the move to sell Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Tuesday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appointment to discuss options to revive the fortunes of the Navaratna company.
The Chief Minister said he would lead an all-party delegation and representatives of trade unions "to represent to you directly the concerns being expressed by the people of Andhra Pradesh, employees, and various stakeholders."
Jagan's latest missive is seen as a damage control exercise after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamans's statement in Parliament on Monday that the "state government is consulted in specific matters" (on RINL disinvestment) though the AP government did not hold any equity in VSP.
Sitharaman stated that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs accorded in principle approval for 100 per cent disinvestment of the Government of India's shareholding in Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited, the corporate entity of VSP.
This triggered a fresh round of protests in port city Visakhapatnam on Tuesday, with opposition parties and trade unions accusing the Jagan regime of being complicit in the steel plant privatization move.
"It is a matter of great concern for the people of Andhra Pradesh, employees of RINL, and other stakeholders," the Chief Minister remarked, referring to Sitharamans statement.
Referring to his February 6 letter on the subject, Jagan said in a fresh letter that the plant would again become a profitable venture by implementing some turnaround measures, with some support from the Government of India, instead of taking the disinvestment route.
Allotting captive iron ore mines (for the steel plant) to bring down the input costs, swapping high-cost debt with low-cost debt, converting debt into equity and monetizing vacant land (of the plant) were some of the 'turnaround measures', the Chief Minister suggested.
"I assure you that the Andhra Pradesh Government will closely work with the Government of India under your able leadership in making this happen and together we can revive the plant for unlocking greater value to the society and in particular to the people of the state.
I seek an early appointment in this regard."