Guwahati, Aug 18: Following a controversy over the alleged change of name of Guwahati airport, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday said that the facility will always be known as Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport.
Opposition parties, student and youth organisations have been protesting against handing over the Guwahati airport to the Gujarat-based Adani Group, a controversy has erupted over the facility's name after an advertisement was published in some newspapers here on Tuesday and Wednesday. The advertisement was issued by the Adani Guwahati International Airport Limited (AGIAL) inviting bids for some non-aeronautical services at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport (LGBIA).
"Nobody can change the name of the airport. It will remain as Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport. Nobody should create any excitement over the name," Sarma told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Golaghat.
He asserted that till he is the chief minister of Assam and Narendra Modi is the prime minister of India, the name of the airport will not be changed. The airport is named after Gopinath Bardoloi, the first chief minister of Assam. The Bharat Ratna awardee is still revered by the people of the state as the saviour of the Northeast from its merger with the then East Pakistan during the partition of India.
On August 19 last year, the Union Cabinet had accorded its approval for leasing of three AAI airports -- Guwahati, Jaipur and Thiruvananthapuram -- for operation, management and development to Adani Enterprises for 50 years.
The Congress' Rajya Sabha MP Ripun Bora claimed that the signboard at the airport shows that it is now Adani International Airport.
"An advertisement also appeared in newspapers in the name of Adani International Airport. We had raised the issue of a change of name to Adani International Airport, but it was denied by the Assam government," Bora told a press conference here.
He demanded that the government clarify whether there is a clause in the agreement with Adani Group to keep the name of the airport as LGBIA or not.
"Then why has the advertisement appeared in the name of Adani Guwahati International Airport?" he questioned.
Another opposition party Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) too protested against the alleged change of name of the Guwahati airport. Showing the newspaper advertisement at a press meet, AJP president Lurinjyoti Gogoi said, "It is now clear that the government wants to fully hand over the airport to the Adanis. It is named after Gopinath Bordoloi and it is a sentimental issue."
He said the party will never accept any attempt to change the nomenclature of the airport as well as giving it to the private firm and will continue to hold protests against this. The AJP held protests at the airport twice earlier this month against handing it over to the Adanis, leading to the detention of scores of its members. All Assam Students' Union (AASU) general secretary Sankarjyoti Barua said that the organisation will never accept any name other than Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi for the airport.
"We will protest if any such attempt is made to distort the name of the airport. We demand that the Assam government clarify the advertisement, which was published in the name of the Adani Guwahati International Airport Ltd for the LGBIA," he said.
Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad general secretary Palash Changmai too opposed changing of the name and threatened to break any signboard put up with the new name.
"The Shiv Sena broke the Adani signage in front of the Mumbai airport. If they (Adani Group) try to do the same in Guwahati, they will face similar action by us," he added.
On August 2, a group of Shiv Sena workers allegedly ransacked an "Adani Airport" neon sign board near the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj close to the international airport in Mumbai. A nine-member team of the Adani Group on August 9 started the "Observation Period" at the LGBIA, marking the gradual takeover of the Northeast's foremost airport. The Concession Agreement between the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Adani Group was signed on January 19 this year in New Delhi. The AGIAL will take over the charge of the LGBIA in October this year.
Land near the airport has also been leased out to the private company for a period of 50 years in order to develop aviation-related business and facilities.