A political firestorm is brewing between the Karnataka government and the Centre amid reports that the next edition of “Aero India” – Asia’s largest military aviation exhibition – may be moved from Bengaluru to Lucknow. While reports about the venue shift have kicked off a round of slugfest between the Congress and BJP, it has also led to internal squabbles within the saffron party. On Monday, Karnataka Chief Minister Kumaraswamy dashed off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying Bengaluru “is the most suitable place to conduct the show”.
“I would seek your indulgence in the matter to convey approval of the government for conduction of Aero India show 2019 in Bengaluru. Bengaluru being the hub for defence and aviation majors of the country, is certainly the most suitable place to conduct the show,” Kumaraswamy said in the letter. Ever since the inception of “Aero India” in 1996, Bengaluru has been hosting the event. In the 11th edition of the event, held last year, 549 companies from 51 countries participated.
In his letter, Kumaraswamy noted that Bengaluru had become synonymous with Aero India, which is organised by the Defence Ministry. Kumaraswamy further mentioned that the state had also upgraded its infrastructure in terms of roads and public amenities. “As chief minister of the state, it will be my bounden duty to ensure best possible assistance by Team Karnataka,” he wrote.
At a Defence Industrial Corridor meeting in Aligarh on Saturday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath reportedly urged Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to shift the venue of Aero India to his state, saying it would benefit defence production, PTI reported. A huge defence corridor, encompassing Aligarh, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Jhansi, and Chitrakoot, is being built in Uttar Pradesh.
However, Sitharaman has made it clear that no decision had been taken while saying “people in many places are asking for that (the show)”. On Monday, Union Minister Ananth Kumar said Lucknow doesn’t have the required infrastructure to host such a mega event. “Defence Minister hasn’t said anything about ‘Aero India’ shifting from Bengaluru to Lucknow. In fact, it has been said that Lucknow doesn’t have required infrastructure. All Karnataka MPs will make a representation in this regard as well,” ANI quoted Kumar as saying.
The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee has also written to Sitharaman, telling her that as a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, she had to protect the interests of the state. A miffed deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara had said last week that under the NDA regime, Karnataka was losing key defence projects to other states.
Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly BS Yeddyurappa also said the party and its MPs would make all efforts to retain the show in Bengaluru by pressuring the Centre. He also accused Congress of creating “unnecessary confusion” over the issue.