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Tough road ahead for Adani to take over Trivandrum airport

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Tough road ahead for Adani to take over Trivandrum airport Tough road ahead for Adani to take over Trivandrum airport golf Thiruvananthapuram Airport | Via Wikimedia Commons

With all political parties in Kerala, barring the BJP, opposing the Centre's decision to give the Trivandrum International Airport to Adani Enterprises on lease, the privatisation move is snowballing into a tug of war between Kerala and the BJP-ruled Centre. 

The all-party meeting convened by the state government on Thursday—a day after the Central government decision was announced—had jointly come out against the move with parties trying to be more aggressive than the other on the matter. It has also been decided to move a resolution in this regard in the state assembly when it meets on August 24. 

Meanwhile, the state government has approached the Kerala high court seeking a stay on the Central government’s decision to lease out operations of Trivandrum International Airport to Adani Enterprises.

In a letter—the second one in a row—sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on this matter, the latter has made it clear that it would be difficult for an entrepreneur to manage the airport without the cooperation of the state government. "In case of development, the cooperation of the state government is a necessity. We don't think anyone would be interested in doing business challenging the state. We all are together in this protest against the decision," he said in the letter. 

The Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), on behalf of the state government, had bid for the management and operation of the airport with the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in which it will be the major shareholder. Per passenger fee was the criteria for the bidding process that was conducted in early 2019 for the airports at Thiruvananthapuram and five other cities.

But as Adani Enterprises had outbid the KSIDC—Rs 168 per passenger vs Rs 135/passenger—the state government had informed the Centre that they were ready to offer the amount quoted by the company. "State support agreement is a prerequisite for the transfer and also for the running of the airport. Without local support, it would be difficult for anyone, even if it is Adani," an official who is dealing the matter with the state government told THE WEEK. 

But with the state BJP staunchly supporting the move to hand over the airport and local MP Shashi Tharoor endorsing it against his party's official position, the matter has acquired more political colours. Though KPCC president Mullappalli Ramachandran had openly taken a jibe at Tharoor saying that none in the Congress party needs to be on the payroll of Adani, Tharoor has stuck to his position that privatisation is beneficial for modernisation and upgradation of the airport. 

"Thiruvananthapuram airport privatisation will increasingly become a political issue in the coming days, especially as elections are advancing," said the officer. "A lot will also depend on the high court decision," he added.

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