Decision to shift Tata-Airbus project was taken when Uddhav was CM: Fadnavis; Sena responds

New Delhi: Amid a row over Tata-Airbus picking Gujarat to set up its aircraft manufacturing project, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday (October 31, 2022) hit out at Uddhav Thackeray and claimed that the decision to shift the Airbus project was taken when the Shiv Sena president was the chief minister. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader also said that the officials of the consortium had last year rued the “lack of conducive” atmosphere in the state, a claim refuted by former minister Aaditya Thackeray.

“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,” Fadnavis said.

“However, they told me ‘yahan ka mahol investment jaise nahi hai, Devendraji’ (the atmosphere in the state is not worth an investment),” he added.

Fadnavis, who was the Maharashtra chief minister from 2014 to 2019, said that he was following up with the companies since 2016 and kept doing it till 2019.

The senior BJP leader also said that French (aviation) firm Safran opened its (aircraft MRO) facility in Hyderabad in 2021, but the Opposition is blaming the Shinde-BJP dispensation for losing that project.

Fadnavis also said that 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.

Aaditya Thackeray hits back at Devendra Fadnavis

Meanwhile, Aaditya said that the 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 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 said.

“It is his (Fadnavis) 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 asked.

Aaditya 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 Rs 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, Aaditya asked.

He claimed the package the Maharashtra government had offered to Vedanta-Foxconn included incentives which were Rs 10,000 crore 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.

A fresh war of words has broken out 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.

(With agency inputs)