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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

When Gadkari made Dhirubhai Ambani upset

Synopsis

“When Reliance submitted the tender for the expressway, I rejected it, upsetting Dhirubhai Ambani. Even my ministerial colleagues and the chief minister (Manohar Joshi) were also angry with me. Balasaheb Thackeray asked me why I rejected that bid,” Gadkari recalled during an event yesterday.

‘When I rejected a tender by Reliance, Dhirubhai Ambani was upset with me’: Nitin Gadkari remembers his time as state minister

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday called upon investors to take up road projects as they offer “very high” internal rate of return, ensuring their economic viability.

Assuring investors that their investments are safe, the road transport and highways minister said the possibility of any project getting stalled is nil now.

“The internal rate of return in the road sector is very high and so there is no need to worry about their economic viability,” Gadkari said while addressing a national conference on investment opportunities in highways, transport and logistics.

Recalling his stint as the Public Works Department (PWD) minister in the first Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra in the early 1990s, he said even in those days money was never a problem to fund infrastructure as he could successfully raise funds and build the Mumbai-Pune Expressway with public money, which then went on to become a model for infrastructure financing.

“When

submitted the tender for the expressway, I rejected it, upsetting Dhirubhai Ambani. Even my ministerial colleagues and the chief minister (Manohar Joshi) were also angry with me. Balasaheb Thackeray asked me why I rejected that bid.

“I told them that I will raise money from the public and construct the expressway, the Worli-Bandra Sealink and 52 other flyovers in the city and all of them laughed at me,” Gadkari said.

However, chief minister Joshi gave him the go ahead, leading to the creation of the Maharashtra State Roads Development Corporation (MSRDC), Gadkari said.

Reiterating that there is no dearth of money, Gadkari recalled how he and the first MSRDC managing director R C Sinha used to go to every big and small investor fora, seeking funds for various infrastructure projects.

Soon, MSRDC went to capital markets to raise Rs 500 crore but garnered Rs 1,160 crore. The second time when it wanted to raise Rs 650 crore, MSRDC ended up with Rs 1,100 crore.

“Even Ratan Tata told me that I am smarter than them as he never expected so much money could be raised from the market for infra projects,” Gadkari said.

But he rued that when it came to buying a colour TV for himself on installments, there was nothing but disappointment as the shopkeeper never delivered on his promise.

“When the shopkeeper came to know that I was a minister, he told me that he will deliver me a new TV model. But I didn’t get the TV set as promised because he would have realised that being a minister I may not pay up,” Gadkari said jokingly.

He further said while Reliance quoted Rs 3,600 crore for the expressway, MSRDC completed the project in less than half the amount — Rs 1,600 crore.

Speaking about the high returns the expressway has given, he said the first time Maharashtra monetised it for Rs 3,000 crore and the second time (after merging with the old Mumbai-Pune highway), the state earned Rs 8,000 crore more, around one-and-a-half years back.

Explaining why road projects are viable now, he said today the NHAI does not tender projects until 90 per cent of the land is acquired and with all clearances, including from forest department and the Railways.

So there is minimal chance of infra projects getting stalled now, he said.

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Kaylie Pferten
A pilot of submersible crafts in a former life, now married to my husband David and writing about investment advice.

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