July 18, 2008

Airport to Be Named After Charan Singh?

By Saurabh Sinha

NEW DELHI: This could figure as one of the most cost-effective ways of enlisting MPs' support to help save the UPA government in next week's trust vote. The Centre has hastily dusted and revived an old proposal to rename Lucknow airport as Chaudhary Charan Singh Airport.

The aviation ministry has prepared a Cabinet note to be discussed and perhaps cleared during a Cabinet meet on Thursday. The reason: the late PM's son Ajit Singh heads the Rashtriya Lok Dal which has three priceless MPs.

It's clearly the political context which has pushed the proposal. Else, aviation ministry officials don't even remember who had originally sent this proposal about three to four years back when Mulayam Singh was ruling Uttar Pradesh.

Apart from pleasing Ajit Singh, the name change of Lucknow airport at Amausi could also signal that Samajwadi Party's newfound clout at the Centre enables them to get things done even in rival Mayawati's capital. RLD leader Ajit Singh was pleased though he felt it could have been done much earlier.

"It is in keeping with Chaudhary sahab's stature. He is the tallest leader of farmers and his honour is an honour to them," he said.

The proposal to change an airport's name has to follow a procedure. Either the state assembly has to pass a resolution to this effect and send it to the ministry or social organisations or peoples' representatives can do the same. The aviation ministry can also suo motu make this suggestion. But howsoever the proposal comes, it has to be cleared by the union cabinet as airports are government property.

Politics, anyway, makes strange bedfellows. "Today, a Congress- led Central coalition is considering to name Lucknow airport after Charan Singh. The Jat leader's government in UP was dismissed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1968. Years later, Charan Singh became the only PM who never faced Parliament as the Congress withdrew support to his government one day before the confidence vote," said a political observer.

Interestingly, Centre has chosen to discuss in Cabinet a proposal about an airport in Lucknow while the UP CM Mayawati has been pressing hard for an international airport in Greater Noida. With BSP withdrawing support to the UPA, that proposal is now unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon.

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