New Delhi: On his monthly radio address “Mann Ki Baat,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced today that Chandigarh Airport will be renamed in honour of liberation warrior Bhagat Singh. The action is perceived as the BJP outdoing the Aam Aadmi Party in the battle for the murdered legend’s legacy.
The Chandigarh airport will now be named after Shaheed Bhagat Singh as a tribute to the legendary freedom warrior, according to PM Modi.
Bhagwant Mann, the chief minister of Punjab, welcomed the news and said it satisfied a long-standing yearning of Punjabis.
“Finally our efforts paid off. On behalf of entire Punjab, we welcome the decision of naming the Chandigarh airport after Shaheed Bhagat Singh ji,” Mr Mann said in a tweet in Punjabi.
Dushyant Chautala, the deputy chief minister of Haryana, also praised the news.
According to Mr. Chautala, the governments of Punjab and Haryana previously decided to honour Bhagat Singh by renaming the Chandigarh International Airport. The choice was made during a discussion between Bhagwant Mann and Dushyant Chautala last month regarding this matter.
In reference to their meeting, Mr. Mann stated that the Punjab government had also written to the Union Civil Aviation Ministry requesting that the airport be named after the illustrious freedom warrior before his birth anniversary on September 28. Bhagat Singh’s birthday falls on that day.
“I am happy that our efforts bore fruit and the Prime Minister made the announcement in the Mann Ki Baat programme,” said Mr Mann.
With much fanfare and ceremony, the Punjab Chief Minister began his tenure by paying symbolic homage to the legendary freedom fighter. At Khatkar Kalan, Bhagat Singh’s ancestral hamlet, AAP hosted Bhagwant Mann’s swearing-in ceremony. The colour “Basanti (yellow)” covered the entire space.
Bhagwant Mann, a comic-turned-politician, requested that attendees wear “Basanti turbans and dupattas” to the oath, and yellow turbans, which are his signature, flooded the village Khatkar Kalan in response. The venue’s decor and colour scheme were both yellow. Bhagat Singh once wore turbans in the hue that came to represent revolution.
After only a few days in government, Bhagwant Mann announced March 23, the anniversary of Bhagat Singh’s death, to be a public holiday every year.
In order to capitalise on Bhagat Singh’s popularity among young people and in rural North India, AAP has carefully planned its strategy.
The idea to rename the airport in the union territory after Bhagat Singh has also been floated before.
The airport should be called as “Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport, Mohali,” the Punjab government demanded in 2017.
A resolution on the subject was unanimously approved by the Haryana Assembly in April 2016 under the leadership of the BJP. The state administration had stated that it had no issues with the renaming, but that the word “Mohali” should be removed.
The action by the BJP state administration was then seen as a power play against the concurrently ruling Congress in Punjab. The Punjab government put up signs reading “Mohali airport” when the airport terminal building at Mohali, Punjab, collapsed, upsetting the Haryana government.
The opposition claimed that the Haryana BJP administration did not want to rename the building after independence hero Bhagat Singh, which caused a commotion in the Rajya Sabha the next year, in 2017.
The Chandigarh airport’s designation has been the subject of debate, CPM MP Ritabrata Banerjee had stated at the time.
“The Punjab Government had agreed that the airport will be named after Shaheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh, (but) the Haryana Government, the Haryana Chief Minister said ‘no’. They want to name the airport after Mangal Sein,” he said.
Asserting that the BJP intended to name it after the party’s former Haryana Chief Minister Mangal Sein, the Congress joined in.
However, the BJP had refuted the claim, claiming they had never said it.
A cooperative venture between the governments of Punjab and Haryana and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) will build a $485 million airport.