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Aaditya Thackeray And Eknath Shinde Trade Blame Over Tata-Airbus, Vedanta-Foxconn Projects Shifting To Gujarat

A fresh war of words has broken out between the ruling Eknath Shinde dispensation and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray)-led opposition over the ₹ 22,000 crore Tata-Airbus project to manufacture C-295 military transport aircraft moving from Maharashtra to Vadodara in Gujarat.

Aaditya Thackeray with Shiv Sena workers
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Shiv Sena leader and former Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray on Monday claimed officials of Tata-Airbus had told the then Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government that they will have to set up the aircraft manufacturing plant wherever the Union government asks them to.

He also refuted Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' claims that the previous MVA government did nothing to keep the Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor plant in the state. He said several meetings had taken place between Vedanta officials and the previous government early this year.

A fresh war of words has broken out between the ruling Eknath Shinde dispensation and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray)-led opposition over the ₹ 22,000 crore project to manufacture C-295 military transport aircraft moving from Maharashtra to Vadodara in Gujarat. Indian conglomerate Vedanta and electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Gujarat government last month to set up a semiconductor and display FAB manufacturing unit in the state, a move that triggered a political firestorm in Maharashtra as the plant was expected to come up in the state.

Amid a row over Tata-Airbus picking Gujarat to set up the aircraft project, Fadnavis on Monday said officials of the consortium had last year rued the "lack of conducive" atmosphere in the state.

Aaditya Thackeray dared Fadnavis to reveal the names of Tata-Airbus officials who had allegedly told him, when he was opposition leader, that environment in Maharashtra was not investment friendly.

"When Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government communicated with officials of Tata-Airbus Defence, they said they will have to set up the plant wherever the Union government asks them to. I challenge Fadnavis to reveal the names of those officials who told him that the atmosphere was not investor-friendly in Maharashtra," he told reporters.

He also hit back at Fadnavis who had said that he was following up with Tata-Airbus from 2016 to 2019 to set up the plant in Nagpur when he was the chief minister.

"It is his failure that in three years, he could not take any concrete steps to bring the Tata-Airbus Defence plant to Nagpur. If that aircraft manufacturing plant was finalised in Gujarat, why did Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari write a letter to that company appealing to them to set up their project in Nagpur?" Aaditya Thackeray asked.

"Even Maharashtra's new industries minister Uday Samant in September said he will speak with Fadnavis to ensure bringing the Tata Airbus project to Maharashtra. "Who is giving correct information here"? he asked.

He listed the timeline of various meetings held with officials of Vedanta Foxconn and MVA government officials. He said Foxconn officials had visited Talegaon near Pune, where the plant was supposed to be set up.

"Foxconn chairman had visited the Talegaon site along with officials of MVA government on June 24 where the proposed ₹ 1.49 lakh crore semi-conductor plant was supposed to come. Vedanta-Foxconn officials have already stated that the Talegaon site is ideal for such a mega project," he said.

If as per the claims of Fadnavis, the Vedanta-Foxconn had already decided to set up the plant in Gujarat, then why would they waste time with us, he asked.

He also listed out the timeline of various meetings that took place between officials of Vedanta-Foxconn and officials of the then Maharashtra government.

"The package the Maharashtra government had offered to Vedanta-Foxconn includes incentives which were ₹ 10,000 crores more compared to the similar package proposed by Gujarat. The semi-conductor project is one of the rarest of its kind and it appeared imminent that it will be set up in Maharashtra," he said.

Aaditya Thackeray alleged that Devendra Fadnavis gave wrong information.

"Either he was wrongly briefed by officials or whether he has deliberately put forward to get exposed and face the criticism," he asked.

Tata-Airbus project in Gujarat 

In a major boost to India's defence system, European aviation giant Airbus and India’s TATA group will jointly manufacture at least 40 C-295 transport aircraft in India with the production unit being set up in Gujarat’s Vadodara as part of a Rs 21,935-crore deal.

The C-295MW is a transport aircraft of 5-10 tonne capacity with contemporary technology that will replace the ageing Avro aircraft of IAF.

It has a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para-dropping of troops and cargo. Short take-off and landing from semi-prepared surfaces are other of its features.

"This is the first project of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India by a private company. The total cost of the project is Rs 21,935 crore. The aircraft can be used for civilian purposes as well," said Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar.

“The project offers a unique opportunity for the Indian private sector to enter into technology-intensive and highly competitive aviation industry. It will augment domestic aviation manufacturing resulting in reduced import dependence and expected increase in exports,” Kumar said.

Vedanta-Foxconn project protest

Earlier, in September, Aaditya Thackeray led a protest in Talegaon in Pune against the shifting of the Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor manufacturing project to neighbouring Gujarat.

A statement from the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena said the 'Jan Aakrosh Andolan' was being organised as the project, which entails an investment of Rs 1.54 lakh crore, was lost after the previous MVA government had laid the groundwork for it to be located in Talegaon.

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It said the project was "almost finalised" due to the efforts of the state industries minister Subhash Desai and tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray, and it getting shifted to Gujarat had affected the employment opportunities of one lakh youth.

"The dreams of one lakh youth have been crushed. What should the youth do now? What is the state government doing to provide employment? We will seek answers," the statement said.

(with PTI inputs)

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