Kerala govt did not qualify in Thiruvananthapuram airport’s bidding process, says Hardeep Singh Puri

New Delhi: The Kerala government did not qualify in Thiruvananthapuram airport’s bidding process that was carried out in a transparent manner, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Thursday.

The Kerala government has opposed the Union Cabinet’s approval on Wednesday to lease out the Thiruvananthapuram airport to Adani Enterprises through public private partnership (PPP) for a period of 50 years.

Talking about the airport’s 2019 privatisation process on Twitter, Puri said, “Winning bid quoted Rs 168 per passenger, KSIDC (Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation) quoted Rs 135 per passenger and third qualifying bidder was at Rs 63 per passenger.”

Per passenger fee was the criteria for the bidding process that was conducted in early 2019 for six airports — Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram. Adani Enterprises turned out to be the highest bidder for these six airports.

Before the bidding process, the Centre and the Kerala government had agreed that if the KSIDC’s bid comes within the 10 percent range of the winning bid, it would be awarded the airport, Puri said.

However, since the difference between Adani’s bid and KSIDC’s bid was 19.64 percent during the bidding process, the former was qualified as the winner.

“Thus, despite special provision of RoFR (right of first refusal) being given to GoK (government of Kerala), they could not qualify in the international bidding process carried out in a transparent manner,” Puri stated on Twitter.

In another tweet, the minister highlighted the difference of opinions among the senior Congress leaders on this issue by pointing to the statements of Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor and Karnataka Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh.

Tharoor stated on Wednesday evening that a private entity running the operations competitively is the only way this airport can flourish. On the other hand, Ramesh tweeted on Thursday morning, “At this rate, AAI (Airports Authority of India) could well mean ‘Adani Airports of India’!”

The Centre-run AAI owns and manages more than 100 airports across India, including the aforementioned six that have been privatised.

The Kerala government on Thursday called an all-party-meeting to discuss and protest against the Centre’s decision to hand over the management and operation of the Thiruvananthapuram airport to the Adani group.

“Thiruvananthapuram airport privatised to Adani rejecting the claim of Kerala govt, even after offer to match Adani’s rate. PMO’s promise to accept Kerala proposal broken. People of Kerala will not accept this act of brazen cronyism. #Airportprivatisation,” State Finance Minister Dr Thomas Isaac tweeted on Thursday.

In February 2019, Adani Enterprises was declared the winner for all six airports as it was the highest bidder. In July 2019, the Union Cabinet approved the proposal for leasing out three of them – Ahmedabad, Mangalore and Lucknow – to the Ahmedabad-based company.

Eight months after the Cabinet approval, Adani Enterprises signed the concessionaire agreement with the AAI on 14 February this year for operation, management and development of these three airports.

In June this year, the AAI gave three more months to the Ahmedabad-based company to take over the management of these three airports due to the COVID-19 situation. This means the deadline for takeover has been pushed from 12 August to 12 November.

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