Kalaburagi: The new Greenfield airport in Kalaburagi was inaugurated with much fanfare here on Friday, with the BJP turning the event into an all- party affair and Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa promising to make sure it opened doors for the economic development of the backward Hyderabad-Karnataka region, recently christened Kalyana Karnataka.
Promising to give the region special attention, he declared, “I won't be merely content with renaming the H-K region Kalyana Karnataka. I want to make sure that it rises to number one position in development.”
The Chief Minister, who arrived about an hour behind schedule at 1.45 pm on the maiden flight operated by Star Air from Bengaluru to inaugurate the airport at Srinivas Saradagi about 13.5 kms from the city, was accompanied by his ministerial colleagues, Govind Karjol, Basavaraj Bommai, Jagadish Shettar, and Prabhu Chavan, Lok Sabha members, Dr Umesh Jadhav and Bhagwanth Khuba, besides legislators from the district.
Barring the lone Congress MLC from the district, Thippanna Kamaknur, all Congress leaders, including its three legislators from the district stayed away from the event. But senior Congress leader, Mallikarjun Kharge, was most conspicuous by his absence as he had played a pivotal role in establishing the airport.
Official sources said invitations had been extended strictly by protocol and as Mr Kharge was neither an elected representative nor occupied any position in government, he was not invited.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Yediyurappa said he was extremely happy to inaugurate the airport as he had himself laid the foundation stone for it during his previous tenure in 2008. "I took steps to acquire the 745 acres of land required for it. I hope that inauguration of the airport soon after renaming the region as Kalyana Karnataka will boost its economic development as the better connectivity will throw open more doors for investment in the region in areas such as tur dal processing and cement manufacturing. My government will also sanction more funds for the region in the coming budget and live upto the expectations of the people," he promised to loud applause from the audience.
Mr Yediyurappa also assured that he would appeal to the Centre to introduce cargo flights from the airport. Appreciating the role played by the state government in setting up the airport, secretary for civil aviation, Pradeep Singh Kharola, said the Centre would take similar steps to complete other airports in Karnataka if the state government cooperated with it. "This is a model airport ,which has been set up with the participation of both the Centre and the state. Many more airports can be developed under a similar model," he said.
Located near Srinivas Saradagi village, the new airport has been built at a cost of Rs 176 crore by both the Centre and the state government. Its 3.17 km long and 45 meter wide runaway is said to be the tenth longest in the country and the second longest in the state after the one at the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru. The airport covers an area of 7.5 kms and its terminal building is spread over 2,173 square meters.
Presently flights operate on two routes from the city, Kalaburagi -Bengaluru and Kalaburagi-Tirupati, under UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagarik) , the Union government's regional connectivity scheme.
Also present at the event were national secretary of the BJP, Muralidhar Rao, former ministers, Malikayya Guttedar and Baburao Chavan , former Rajya Sabha member, Basavaraj Patil Sedam and former minister, Revu Naik, who recently quit the BJP and joined the JD(S).
But the absence of senior Congress leader, Mallikarjun Kharge, raised a few eyebrows as he had played a significant role both in the acquisition of land for the airport and persuading the then Siddaramaiah government to sanction funds for it from the Hyderabad Karnataka Development Board . Considering the manner in which he had also persuaded the PWD contractors to continue with the work on it when they had abandoned it half- way through, some felt he should have been a special invitee to the event....