After IPL bid win, Tharoor tosses development ball on home turf

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Mar 24 2010, 02:10am hrs
After orchestrating Kochis IPL bid, Shashi Tharoor has turned his attention to his political home turf of Thiruvananthapuram. With the state being branded as financially stagnant for years, the efforts of the minister of state for foreign affairs have not gone unnoticed in a state known only for its tourism and militant trade unionism, despite scoring high in social parameters like education and healthcare.

Tharoor has now set his sights on bringing Spanish football club Barcelona to Thiruvananthapuram, and all of a sudden developed his image as a sports icon. However, Tharoor says it all relates to enlivening the states economy by whipping up some sporting frenzy.

Tharoor, when contacted by FE on Monday, said, The IPL captures the imagination of the Kerala youth when the state has very little national-level cricket exposure to boast of. Secondly, it is an impressive boost to the regions self-confidence that a consortium of businessmen from Kerala a state with relatively modest business moorings competed with the topnotch business groups in Gujarat and other parts of the country and emerged the winner with a $333.33-million deal. Tharoors plan for Thiruvananthapuram is to get it branded as a tech-city. As the city had set up Indias first IT parks 20 years ago, Tharoor says its still not too late to take this route.

Private capital investment in Kerala hovers in a modest range, forcing even the state industry minister Elamaram Karim to admit that the slowdown in major private capital investment was a major worry.

Recently, in the wake of the Dubai crisis, the future of Rs 30,000-40,000 crore send to homes in Kerala every year was under a cloud. To make matters worse, the much-hyped $300-million deal with Dubai Tecom Investments for an IT infrastructure township called Smartcity also went awry.

Management experts like G Vijayaraghavan (former CEO, Technopark) says Kerala consortiums IPL bid win has come as a sudden burst of good tiding. Much would also depend on the spin offs that could be achieved out of the game, he adds.

Tharoor believes it is not the trophies or the number of local players who get into the team that matters at end of the day. What counts will be the fillip to the states tourism business and the spawning of joint ventures between visiting corporates and local business bigwigs, he says.

KJ Joseph, fellow, Centre for Development Studies, Thirvananthapuram, says, Since tourism has been the mainstay of the states service sector economy, cricket-related visitors could spark off the expansion and capacity utilisation of tourism infrastructure.

Thiruvananthapuram is short of a state-of-the-art world-class stadium. I am hoping that hosting the National Games will help rectify that, says Tharoor. He is, however, worried that the proposal of the twin-city programme with Barcelona may de delayed with the Communists running the Thiruvananthapuram city corporation office. But mayor Jayan Babu has assured that this will be promptly taken up without any political conflict.

The partnership with Barcelona is conceived not merely on the cultural level. As a port-state it can share expertise in Keralas forthcoming Rs 5600-crore Vizhinjam seaport.

Whether the diplomat-turned politicians development game hits the goal post or not, it has been a shot of inspiration for a state, lately starved of good news.