In a bid to revive his political fortune and that of his party, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, at one go, has conferred nine airports to Uttar Pradesh (UP), his home state, which also sends the largest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha. Of the nine airports, the one in Fursatganj in Amethi, the constituency of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, costs Rs750 crore. The remaining eight airfields which will come up in the cities of Meerut, Muradabad, Bareilly, Faizabad, Kanpur, Allahabad, Agar and Etawah will cost Rs1,280 crore to the exchequer.
The proposal for eight airports was cleared by the ministry a fortnight ago whereas the one for Fursatganj got the nod last week. Four of these airports are in western UP, the electoral battlefield of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), led by Singh.
The BJP dismissed this as an exercise in vain to woo voters. “The Muzaffarnagar riots have caused massive damage to the RLD. Both the Jats and Muslims who voted for RLD have gone against the party after the riots,” said Ajay Tripathi, senior BJP leader of UP.
“Ajit Singh is just trying to build his image,” Tripathi said.
Ajit Singh, however, laughed at the BJP’s contention, saying airports do not get you votes. “Airports help in improving the GDP of states and do not get votes. My focus is to uplift the state,” the minister told dna. The nine places where the airports will come up are small cities, some even without proper road connectivity.
The ministry of civil aviation said the approval for airports was granted after conducting a detailed study. “A nationwide study was carried out by an independent agency and 100 sites were identified. The eight airports were given the go ahead on the basis of the report,” said a senior officer of the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
The airports of Agra, Allahabad, Kanpur and Bareilly are currently with the army or the air force. The rest are brownfields of the AAI. “All the four airports will come up at an estimated cost of Rs150-175 crore each,” the officer said.
The ministry has also given its approval for the expansion of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy into a full-fledged airport. Besides the airport, the first national Aviation University is also set to come up at Fursatganj.
Ajit Singh had been pursuing the matter with the state government since 2012. “It has taken me almost two years to get the approval. I have done my bit for the state, the rest is for the state to do,” the minister said. The AAI will develop the airports.