Mantralaya makeover now faces cost hurdle
Lowest bidder refuses to slash asking price even as issues between Congress and NCP simmer in background; ministers fed up with repeated delays
The Mantralaya makeover plan is becoming a contentious issue for the Congress-led Democratic Front government as the project has proved to be a non-starter for a while now. At a time when there already exist some political issues between alliance partners Congress and NCP over the proposal, the lowest bidder is learnt to have refused to bring down the asking price for the project.
Sources in Mantralaya said Unity Infraprojects, the lowest bidder among the three firms vying for the work, declined to cut the cost of the project during negotiations held at Mantralaya yesterday.
48 per cent higher
At Rs 163 crore, the Unity Infraprojects bid is 48 per cent higher than the estimated cost of Rs 110 crore fixed by the government.
The other two bidders are Shapoorji Pallonji (Rs 167 crore) and Larsen & Toubro (Rs 177 crore). A fire on June 21 destroyed a vast portion of Mantralaya, resulting in calls for revival of the makeover proposal mooted a few years ago.
Unity is believed to have expressed its inability to carry out the work at the government price, which is based on the makeover plan prepared by architect Raja Aederi.
A high-powered committee headed by Chief Secretary J K Banthia is now busy working out a solution.
“After the lowest bidder’s refusal to slash the cost, the government has no option but to go for re-tendering,” a senior Mantralaya official said, requesting anonymity.
The issue has become a cause for resentment among ministers as well since it figured during the weekly meeting of the state cabinet on Wednesday.
Senior ministers, including Narayan Rane, Chhagan Bhujbal and Harshwardhan Patil, expressed their unhappiness over the delay in starting the work, said sources.
PWD Minister Bhujbal’s displeasure was particularly noticeable, as his department has no say in finalising the bidder.
Industries Minister Rane wanted to know the reasons for the delay, saying it was unacceptable. He said the committee should sort out the matter expeditiously as completion of the project to restore the state headquarters may take months.
In a separate meeting that was attended by only Congress ministers, Forest Minister Dr Patangrao Kadam also raised the issue before the CM.
Kadam is learnt to have said that ministers and various departments were functioning from different locations and asked how long such a state of affairs was supposed to continue.
Sources said the delay was the fallout of the politics attached to it, as the state PWD, the NCP-controlled ministry which normally handles such responsibilities, was kept out of the process.
Instead of the PWD, a committee led by the Chief Secretary was asked to decide on the makeover project. The decision, according to bureaucrats, was taken owing to recent controversies over projects being implemented by the PWD.
Even the final proposal submitted for the approval of the state cabinet was prepared in accordance with the instructions given by the Chief Minister’s office, and it said that a high-powered committee headed by the Chief Secretary would supervise the makeover bidding process instead of the PWD. Since then, PWD Minister Bhujbal is said to be upset as he has no locus standi in the matter.