CHANDIGARH: What’s in a name? A lot, when it involves politics and credit. Punjab and Haryana are slugging it out over the nomenclature of an international airport proposed on a Punjab land adjacent to Chandigarh.
While Haryana wants it to be named Chandigarh International Airport, Punjab is pitching for Mohali International Airport.
The Airport Authority of India (AAI) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the governments of Punjab and Haryana last week for the upgrade of the Chandigarh (domestic) airport for international flights.
Mohali International Airport was one of the main development planks of the Akali Dal during its election campaign in February last year. After the AAI okayed the project, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and son Sukhbir listed it as one of the major achievements of their government.
Last week, however, as the MOU was about to be signed, Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda put a spanner seeking the inclusion of his state as a partner in the project as setting up of a new international airport involved upgrading the existing Chandigarh airport, though the expansion would take place on Punjab land. Hooda contended that since Haryana shared Chandigarh as capital with Punjab, it had a rightful claim to be party to the project.
To avoid an ugly situation, Union minister for civil aviation Praful Patel prevailed upon Parkash Singh Badal to make Haryana a partner in the project, leading to last-minute changes in the MoU that now lists both Punjab and Haryana as equal partners.
Further, Hooda sought a categorical assurance from the Union minister that the international airport will not be renamed and be called Chandigarh International Airport. After signing the modified MoU with Haryana’s nod, Patel made a categorical statement that the airport would be called Chandigarh International Airport.
On Wednesday, however, Punjab wrote to the Union civil aviation ministry that it be renamed Mohali International Airport.
Punjab has, meanwhile, put on hold its notification to acquire 300 acres for the purpose, indicating that it would not like the project to be hijacked by Haryana. The MoU says the project would be piloted by a special purpose vehicle constituting representatives of the AAI, Punjab and Haryana. The AAI would meet 51 per cent of the project cost, while Punjab and Haryana would share the remaining 50-50.
Badal said: “We want an international airport at Mohali, we leave the related issues to Patel to deal with.”
Countering the allegation of Haryana having sabotaged the project conceived, developed and pursued by none other than Shiromani Akali Dal working president Sukhbir Singh Badal, the chief minister tried to underplay the development by saying, “It is good for us that the project continues to remain in Mohali, but we will have to spend only Rs200 crore as the Haryana government will now chip in with a similar amount. We stand to gain by the entire exercise.”
Meanwhile, Hooda’s decision to share the cost of a project that would largely come up on Punjab land has made him a target of his political opponents.