Airport issue takes off this election season in Kota

Airport issue takes off this election season in Kota

Kota, Nov 20 (PTI) With election campaigning in Rajasthan hitting a fever pitch, the demand for the development of an airport in Kota is also reaching a crescendo here, even as the Congress and the BJP blame each other for the project not moving towards fruition.

The issue has made way to the campaign discourse especially in the Kota North seat where Rajasthan Chief Ministers Ashok Gehlot's trusted confidant Shanti Dhariwal is taking on Vasundhara Raje loyalist and BJP leader Prahlad Gunjal.

A small airport exists in Kota but only VIP or special flights land there in the absence of regular flight services.

Having a regular airport with commercial flights has been a longstanding demand here and makes its way inevitably to election campaigns. It had been an election issue in the 2018 assembly polls as well as in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

Over two lakh students move to Kota annually to prepare for engineering and medical entrance exams JEE and NEET. Several of them travel from far flung areas and have to come to Kota via New Delhi, Jaipur or Udaipur in the absence of a regular airport here.

Sarina Sandeep, a student from Andhra Pradesh's Kurnool preparing for competitive examinations here, said, “Students from all over the country come to Kota. Some come from very far away states and the journey from there takes a lot of time. This facility (airport) should be there in Kota.” “If we have to go home, we can do that quickly and come back without wasting any time. Because holidays are also very few here. If there is a regular airport, our time will be saved,” the student, who is preparing for engineering exams, told PTI.

Rajendra Singh, a parent from Madhya Pradesh's Shahdol whose child is preparing for exams here, said although train connectivity is good, still many times there is only a one-day window in which one has to meet the child and return and in such a situation if there is air connectivity, a lot of time can be saved.  The way air services are running from other small cities, regular flights should be started from here also, Singh said.

Another parent Praveen Kumar Singh from Patna said, “A lot of time is wasted in train. Air connectivity should be there in Kota, because children come here from all over the country. If we have to meet children sometime during the year, we have to take out five days time. If there is air connectivity then the work will be done in a day or two.” Asked about the issue, BJP's Kota North candidate Gunjal claimed that the land that the state had to give after clearance has not been given.  “This was the responsibility of the state government. Wherever airports are constructed, the state government provides the land. The state government has not fulfilled its responsibility properly. They can say anything but the state government is responsible,” he alleged.  “We promise to Kota that under our state government, we will get the airport work done on priority,” he told PTI.

Kota North sitting MLA and cabinet minister in the Ashok Gehlot government Dhariwal has slammed the BJP over the issue, blaming the Centre for stalling the project.

In September, Gehlot had also blamed the Centre for delays in construction of the proposed greenfield airport in Kota.

He had also accused Lok Sabha Speaker and local MP Om Birla of not playing a positive role for the airport's development for fear of the credit going to the state's Congress government.   Claiming that the state government is committed to building the airport, Gehlot had said the Urban Improvement Trust (Kota) transferred 34 hectares to the Airports Authority of India for free. The first installment of Rs 21.13 crore for the diversion of forest land was also released to the forest department.

Despite these steps, the Centre has not begun work on the project, he had alleged.

Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had hit back, saying the Rajasthan government's 'staggered response and tardy pace' of handing over land have delayed the process of development of an airport in Kota.

Many people here argue that tourist inflow to Kota will be significantly boosted when there is an airport in Kota.  Manish Kumar, a battery rickshaw driver, said the development of an airport in Kota would be a major boost to the economy of Kota as tourism will get a fillip.

“There has been so much development and the river front getting this massive face-lift, many people want to visit the city but are not able to do so as train services do not serve the demand with confirmed bookings only possible if one books months in advance. Airport is a must for the city,” he told PTI.

While the issue has gained traction among the people in the run up to the polls with both the Congress and the BJP attacking each other over it and promising the fulfilment of the project if returned to power, it remains to be seen whether forward movement on the venture is made when the new government takes office.

Elections in Rajasthan for the 200-member assembly will take place on November 25 and results will be out on December 3. PTI ASK DV DV

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