Why are BJP, Congress debating over Aero India venue? Karnataka netas say it's because of 2019 Lok Sabha polls

The ongoing tussle between the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh and the Congress in Karnataka over the venue of the Aero India 2019 does not seem to die down any time soon with Chief Minister of Karnataka HD Kumaraswamy stating that the move in the venue was considered as an agenda ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, clarified that there is no move to shift the show from Bengaluru to Lucknow.

There were reports that the biennial event — considered the largest aerospace exhibition in Asia — may be organised at the Bakshi Ka Talab air force base in Lucknow in October.

Aero India has traditionally been organised at Indian Air Force's Yelahanka air base on the outskirts of Bengaluru. PTI quoted sources from the defence ministry as saying that they have received requests from a number of states including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh to host the next Aero India show.

File image of an Aero India show in Bengaluru's Yelhanka Air Base in 2015. PTI

File image of an Aero India show in Bengaluru's Yelhanka Air Base in 2015. PTI

Why does UP want to host the Aero India 2019

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had earlier requested the defence minister to hold the show in Uttar Pradesh. The decision may bear political significance as the state has the maximum number of Lok Sabha seats. "I request the defence minister to hold the Aero India show in Uttar Pradesh. We will provide every type of facility. In this context, I request her to announce this at the earliest so that we can proceed with the preparations," Adityanath had said.

According to reports, the show is likely to be held during November-December, around the same time that neighbouring states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh go to polls. The Lok Sabha elections will also be held in April-May.

Kumaraswamy had earlier written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, insisting that Bengaluru, and not Lucknow, would be the "best choice" for the event. "Bengaluru being the hub for defence and aviation majors of the country, is certainly the most suitable place to conduct the show," he said in the letter.

Venue shift because of Lok Sabha polls?

According to The Hindu Business Line, in an event in Hubbali during the weekend, Kumaraswamy also stated that the shift is politically motivated, with the Lok Sabha polls in mind. "The Defence Ministry is shifting world-renowned Aero India to Lucknow this year with the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in mind,” he said.

Reports about shifting the venue have triggered a public spat between the Congress and BJP. The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee had earlier written to Sitharaman, telling her that as a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, she should protect the interests of the state and ensure that Aero India show was retained in Bengaluru.

A miffed Karnataka deputy chief minister G Parameshwara had said last week that under the NDA regime, the state was losing key defence projects to other states. Speaking to reporters at Gadag in north Karnataka, Opposition BJP leader in the Assembly BS Yeddyurappa on Monday supported the state and said the party, its MPs and central ministers from the state would make all efforts to retain the show in Bengaluru by bringing pressure on the Centre. He accused Congress leaders of creating "unnecessary confusion" over the issue.

State revenue minister RV Deshpande also met Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi on Saturday to speak about the shifting of the venue of the air show. "Karnataka is the aerospace capital of India, a pioneer in the contribution of high tech ecosystem to the Indian Aerospace Industry by attracting 65 per cent of aerospace investments and producing a quarter of India’s Aircraft and spacecraft," the statement said.

“World class Aerospace park is also coming up in Bangalore. Moreover, Bangalore has been hosting the biennial Airshow successfully for the past 20 years. In this background he urged the government of India to reconsider its decision,” the statement further read.

“Looks like BJP MPs have lost their spine when it comes to protecting our state’s interest,” Priyank Kharge, minister for social welfare, tweeted on Saturday.

“We have two Union ministers from the state who are serious about taking this matter up. The Union government has done a lot for Karnataka and Bengaluru in particular including Metro and the suburban rail. We are sad that we may lose Aero India but that doesn’t mean the party hasn’t done anything at all for Karnataka,” MP P C Mohan said.

Ever since its inception in 1996, Bengaluru has been playing host to Asia's biggest air show, in which 549 global and Indian companies from 51 countries participated at the 11th edition, held in February 2017.  Additionally, the city has a strong Defence vendor base created by public sector units such as HAL, BEL, BEML and ISRO, according to The Hindu Business Line. Karnataka also attracts 65 per cent of aerospace investments and produces a quarter of the country’s aircraft and spacecraft.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Aug 14, 2018 18:47:57 IST

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