Amid a row over Tata-Airbus picking Gujarat to set up the aircraft manufacturing project, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said officials of the consortium had last year rued the "lack of conducive" atmosphere in the state. Amid a row, he claimed the decision to shift the project was taken when Uddhav Thackeray was the chief minister.
The Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was in power in Maharashtra from November 2019 to June 2022. Fadnavis' revelation came amid a tussle between the ruling Eknath Shinde dispensation and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray)-led opposition over the Rs 22,000 crore project to manufacture C-295 military transport aircraft moving from Maharashtra to Vadodara in Gujarat.
"I had personally invited the chiefs of the Tata Airbus Defence projects on April 24, 2021, at my residence 'Sagar', despite being a leader of opposition in the state. I spoke to them and told them as a senior leader I will speak with the then chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to keep the project in Maharashtra.
"However, they told me 'yahan ka mahol investment jaise nahi hai, Devendraji' (the atmosphere in the state is not worth an investment)," he told reporters. Fadnavis, who was the chief minister from 2014 to 2019, said he was following up with the companies since 2016 and kept doing it till 2019.
"After the new government (Uddhav-led Maha Vikas Aghadi) was formed, I noticed some decisions taken earlier were being changed," he alleged. Fadnavis said, in one of the early meetings with officials of the companies (Tata-Airbus consortium), he had offered extra facilities to ensure the project remains in Maharashtra, but the state government that took over (in late 2019) did nothing to retain the project.
"I had even passed a message in 2021 to then (state nodal investment promotion agency) MIDC CEO to pass it on to state industries minister and chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. However, no action was taken. Not a single letter was sent to keep the project here. "The MoU signing and the decision to shift the project to Gujarat was taken during Thackeray's tenure as chief minister of Maharashtra," Fadnavis said.
The senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader went on to allege the project was possibly opposed (by the then state government) as it was coming to Nagpur, which is his home district. "Some kind of fake narrative is being pushed in society by the opposition which wasted its two-and-half-year tenure only in criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "French (aviation) firm Safran opened its (aircraft MRO) facility in Hyderabad in Telangana in 2021. But the opposition is blaming us (Shinde-BJP dispensation) for losing that project," he added.