Airport opening hits air pocket
30 Mar 2008, 0517 hrs IST, Anshul Dhamija, TNN
BANGALORE: Polls could be the spoiler this time. As the Bengaluru International Airport at Devanahalli dresses itself up for the revised inauguration date of May 11, uncertainty hangs threateningly low. With assembly elections likely to be held in May, the code of conduct for political parties could kick in anytime soon, either delaying the airport inauguration or stripping the event of its pomp.
According to top civil aviation ministry officials, under the electoral code of conduct, BIA would be allowed to have an informal opening minus the gala function. This clearly forbids any politician from participating in the inauguration. Top Karnataka government officials confirmed this. Senior BIAL officials told STOI the assessment of whether there’s to be a function or not will be based on the “collective decision” taken by BIAL and the civil aviation ministry.
Now comes the question: will the Rs 2,500-crore greenfield airport open on May 11? Not likely. The airport may take off only after the elections are over. A delay of two months is no big surprise.
The run-up to the opening of Hyderabad airport, which shared a symbiotic construction relationship with the Bangalore one, saw a lot of fanfare. A similar gala event in Bangalore is, therefore, only to be expected. Both BIA and Hyderabad airport are the first mega greenfield international airports developed under public-private partnership. Sources said all eyes are now on the whip that will be issued from New Delhi. Sources close to top BIAL officials said the senior management of the new airport has resigned to the fact that the opening date depends entirely on political compulsions and pressures.
STOI had earlier reported that the Centre’s directive of asking the BIA to choose an opening date post May 10 would directly coincide with assembly poll calendar. Any further postponement would give the governor’s cabinet, which’s holding the administrative reins in the power vacuum that prevails now, ample time to finetune the infrastructure apparatus.
Poor connectivity and high costs that people would have to endure with the opening of the new airport seem to have put political parties, especially the Congress, on the backfoot. Sources said the Congress high command is cued into the developments and is in touch with the civil aviation minister.
Even in Hyderabad, a political game was played out in the airport opening. The scheduled opening date – April 16 – was pushed to April 22 expecting Parliament to go into recess. With this, the government steered clear of Left or the opposition barbs.