Parties clash after Centre ‘snubs’ Mumbai over IFSC

A political slugfest has begun over the central government’s decision to name Gandhinagar as the headquarters of the new International Financial Services Centre Authority. NCP president Sharad Pawar expressed his displeasure over the centre’s decision and called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rise above state considerations. However, leader of the opposition in the assembly and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis blamed the former United Progressive Alliance and Congress-NCP governments in Maharashtra for letting the project slip from Mumbai’s grasp.

Earlier the central government had notified Gandhinagar, rather the country’s financial capital Mumbai, as the headquarters of the IFSC Authority. The authority will serve as a unified regulator for all kinds of financial markets, including those for shares, bonds, commodities, currencies, banking and insurance. A bill passed in the winter session of parliament in 2019 allowed the government to set up such a regulator.

In a web chat with editors and readers of a prominent Marathi newspaper on May 1, organised to commemorate the diamond jubilee of the foundation of Maharashtra, Pawar said, “The prime minister is for the entire country and doesn’t represent any one party or state. He should rise above these considerations and take decisions that are all-inclusive. We would like to urge him to reconsider his decision and restore Mumbai’s status as IFSC of the country.”

Pawar added that “all political parties in the state” would come together to oppose the centre’s decision. “Mumbai has always been the economic capital of the country. It was once an industrial city but over the years it became a hub for financial and other services. The decision to shift IFSC to Gujarat is unfortunate.”

Fadnavis said, “A misinformation campaign is being carried out to defame Modi on the issue of IFSC. Those involved in such a campaign should first examine the history of their own government and what they did from 2007 to 2014.” He added, “The Percy Mistry committee appointed to suggest a way forward to develop Mumbai as an international finance services centre submitted its report in February 2007 but both the UPA government at the centre and Congress-NCP government in the state did not act on it. They did nothing to make Mumbai an IFSC.” In contrast, Modi, who was a chief minister of Gujarat in 2007, announced the Gujarat International Financial Tech City project, he said. “By 2012, Gujarat government had all permissions in hand, plans were ready, and the project was launched,” Fadnavis added. He claimed that after coming to power in the state, the BJP government had tried to revive the project by appointing a task force under the then minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha.

However, former chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said Mumbai never stood a chance. “Ever since 2014, when the Modi government assumed office at the centre, it was clear that GIFT City was going to be developed as an IFSC and Mumbai didn’t stand a chance,” he said.

“No country in the world except the United States has more than one IFSC, so the suggestion from some BJP leaders that the MVA government should pursue this is nothing but an eyewash,” he added.

Fadnavis denied that alloting a plot meant for the IFSC Authority at BKC to bullet train terminus had killed the project. He said, “The bullet train terminus was to be built underground and the IFSC Authority headquarters above ground. Despite it being in the funnel zone (for airplanes), the central government had given a concession on the height of the building.”

However, Fadnavis claimed, the project was put on the backburner because of the Lok Sabha and assembly elections, after which the new state government “did not pursue the project as vigorously as it should have”.

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