Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda will meet defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday amid reports that the Centre is planning to shift the venue of the high-profile Aero India to Lucknow from Bengaluru. “I will request the defence minister to drop the move. It will be all the more embarrassing because the defence minister represents Karnataka in the Rajya Sabha,” Gowda.
The five-day air show is held once every two years at IAF-run Yelahanka airbase in Gowda’s Lok Sabha constituency of Bengaluru North. Last year’s event drew about five lakh visitors, and about one lakh of them were business visitors. “It is Bengaluru which contributes to half of aerospace manufacturing in India. We have built the infrastructure necessary to host an event of this scale in Bengaluru,” said Gowda. “The show also benefited the state in terms of tourism. If need be, we will also meet the Prime Minister to intervene in the matter,” he said.
Karnataka’s ruling JD(S)-Congress have erupted in anger over reports of the move to pull the two-decade-old event out of Bengaluru. UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath is lobbying hard with the Centre to have the premier show in his state, arguing that it will boost defence production there. The event may also be advanced to October or November, according to reports, instead of February 2019. The Congress is viewing the NDA regime’s moves as a political gimmick by the BJP to woo UP voters as the Lok Sabha polls are less than a year away.
In the 543-member Lok Sabha, UP sends 80 members, the largest chunk by any state. “Shifting to Lucknow seems to be just to gratify the PM for the next election. The only purpose seems to be winning maximum number of seats in UP,” Karnataka social welfare minister Priyank Kharge told reporters.“The most important aspect of the event is the trade show, not just air display. It is aimed at showing India’s trade prowess,” Kharge said. According to him, there is no infrastructure in Lucknow to hold such an event. “They don’t have anything to show in Lucknow, no hangars there.”
Bengaluru Central MP PC Mohan of the BJP said he along with other MPs have spoken to union minister Ananthkumar, who has already discussed it with Sitharaman. Karnataka revenue minister RV Deshpande met union home minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi on Saturday, and told him the state has been hosting the show since 1996 despite regime change many times. “No investor has raised a cause for concern about holding the event in Bengaluru. I would urge the PM to let Aero India continue in the city ,” he said.
The UP CM has requested that the event be held in Lucknow, which he has the right to, Deshpande said. “But what was the need for the request? What is the location advantage of Lucknow?” The National Students’ Union of India, the student wing of the Congress, meanwhile, launched a signature campaign in Bengaluru on Monday. “We have collected 250 signatures, so far, and will intensify our protests against the Centre’s moves,” said NSUI general secretary Prakhyath Paramesh