In a move perceived as a rebuff to the Adani group, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on Tuesday (21 November), announced that her government will soon reopen the tender process seeking fresh bids for the Rs 25,000-crore Tajpur deep sea port project.
The statement came as a surprise as the Bengal government had issued the letter of intent (LoI) to the Adani group, more than a year ago, for the project that is expected to attract investments worth Rs 25,000 crore.
A Letter of Intent is a written expression of a preliminary commitment between two or more parties, made prior to the completion of a formal agreement.
The state government’s decision to decouple the proposed Tajpur port project from the ports-to-power conglomerate, has led to a cloud of uncertainty around the mega deep-sea port project.
“(There is) a proposed deep sea port at Tajpur which is ready for tender. You can participate in the tender, and this will attract an investment of USD 3 billion or Rs 25,000 crore,” the chief minister said, addressing industrialists present at the inaugural session of the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) 2023.
Although an official explanation for the change in stance has not been provided, a report in The Telegraph suggests that the Bengal government opted for caution following the Centre’s issuance of a conditional clearance for the project.
“The Centre’s clearance for the Tajpur project has a clause that says that it can go through if there is nothing adverse in it. This means the Centre is putting the onus and risk of implementing the project with the Adani group on us. Why should we take the risk?” writes The Telegraph.
“In case something major comes out against them, we would have to take the blame,” explained the source.
Earlier in March 2022, India’s largest private port operator, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) had emerged as the highest bidder for the Tajpur port project ahead of Sajjan Jindal-promoted JSW Infrastructure.
On 12 October last year, during a Bijaya Sammilani event graced by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the state government formally presented the Letter of Intent for the port’s development to Karan Adani, the CEO of Adani Ports.
However, since then, there had been little movement on the project, which will be the largest investment in Bengal in decades. It’s important to note that the Adani group has not withdrawn from the project; they are patiently awaiting the issuance of a letter of award, LOA.
“On West Bengal Tajpur port, we are still waiting for a letter of award, LOA. We have received the letter of intent. We are waiting for LOA to come,” said Karan Adani, during a conference call last week.
“Once we get (LoA), it will be 18 to 24 months before we start any construction over there since we have to go through the EC, environment clearance, as well as groundwork over there,” Karan Adani added.
The non-participation of the Adani Group from the BGBS has only deepened the intrigue surrounding their role in the Tajpur port project.