The Harish Rawat-led Congress government on Wednesday night proposed to rechristen Jolly Grant airport in the state capital after Adi Shankaracharya, the 8th century Hindu saint, ostensibly to appease the majority community ahead of the assembly elections.
The state government is sending a formal proposal to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in this regard after the state Cabinet approved the renaming proposal, said secretary (civil aviation) Meenakshi Sundaram.
The history of Jolly Grant airport though dates back to 1984, it started commercial operations only in 2008.
The move is perceived as an attempt by the cabinet to counterbalance its earlier decision to grant 90-minute Namaz break to Muslim state government employees. The decision, taken three days ago, drew criticism from various quarters, including the BJP, which had termed it a “dangerous” move.
This is, however, not the first time Congress is playing a soft-Hindutva card in the state that has several prominent Hindu pilgrimage sites such as Haridwar, Rishikesh, Badrinath and Kedarnath and nearly 78% Hindu population.
The Congress is even highlighting the restoration of the flood-devastated Kedarnath shrine as one of the major achievements of the Rawat government to please Hindu sentiments.
Support of the Hindus is crucial for the Congress as a large chunk of the majority community shifted their allegiance to the BJP, propelling the party’s phenomenal growth in the hill state.
The minority community is scattered in the plain districts, particularly in Haridwar where their number is more than 6 lakh out of over 12 lakh population.
If approved Uttarakhand will be the first state in the country to name an airport after a Hindu saint.
Shankaracharya, who is believed to have consolidated Advaita Vedanta, sub-school of Vedanta, is highly revered by the Hindus.
The BJP flayed the Congress government’s decision to rename the airport dubbing it a “mere poll gimmick.”
“The Congress calls itself secular but their acts don’t support their claim” BJP state president Ajay Bhatt told HT.
To counter the BJP criticism chief minister’s spokesperson Surendra Kumar said: “Does BJP alone have copyright on every issue? Government takes inclusive decision based on merits.”