The ruling BJP on Friday defended the Gujarat government's decision to buy a new aircraft worth Rs 191 crore to ferry Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and other dignitaries, claiming it was necessary for safety as the current plane in its fleet was old.
The decision had come under fire from the opposition Congress as well as the Aam Aadmi Party.
Justifying the purchase of a new 12-seater, twin-engine Bombardier Challenger 650 aircraft, the Gujarat BJP, in a statement today, said the move would eliminate an annual expenditure of Rs 5 crore which goes into maintaining the 1999-made Beechcraft Super King aircraft and a 2007-made helicopter.
"When the common man is afraid of travelling in a 10-year-old vehicle, CM Vijay Rupani is risking his life by flying in a 20-year-old plane. The government's helicopter is dangerous to fly. That helicopter was forced to make emergency landing twice in 2017. Since then, in view of CM's safety, only private helicopter is being used on most occasions," said the statement.
"The new plane has been purchased after 20 years, following a report submitted by the state civil aviation department expressing concern about the fly-worthiness of the helicopter. This decision would save Rs 5 crore spent every year towards the maintenance of old aircraft and helicopter. New plane was purchased out of necessity, not for anyone's luxury," the statement said.
"Since the present aircraft was not able to fly long range, the government was forced to hire private jets, which costs Rs 1 lakh and more per hour. This new plane will not only ensure safety of the dignitaries but also save time and money," the statement said in response to criticism.
It further added the new plane was not meant only for the chief minister, as it would also ferry other dignitaries like deputy chief minister and governor.
Earlier on Thursday, the Congress had tweeted, "VVIP culture has really taken off in the BJP".
Gujarat Congress president Amit Chavda had tweeted, "Public money is being splurged. When farmers in Gujarat are in distress due to unseasonal rain and they are yet to be paid any compensation or insurance, a new plane worth Rs 191 crore is being purchased for the chief minister."
Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain tweeted the story published in a Hindi daily and wrote "people ask how AAP government managed funds to make women's travel free in Delhi. It was made possible because your CM (Arvind Kejriwal), instead of buying a plane for himself, used the same money to make the travel free."
Earlier on Wednesday, officials had announced that the five-year long procurement process for a new plane has come to an end as the two-engine Bombardier Challenger 650 aircraft worth Rs 191 crore would be delivered in the next two weeks.
The new aircraft can carry 12 passengers and has a flying range of around 7,000 kilometers, much higher than the present ''Beechcraft Super King'' aircraft currently in use.
It can fly with a speed of around 870 kilometers per hour, much higher than the 20-year-old Beechcraft.
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