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Explained: The Controversy Over Naming Mopa International Airport After Manohar Parrikar

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Dec 12, 2022, 08:50 AM | Updated 08:50 AM IST

A render of the ATC tower at the upcoming Goa International Airport at Mopa (Image: Association of Private Airport Operators)
A render of the ATC tower at the upcoming Goa International Airport at Mopa (Image: Association of Private Airport Operators)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday (11 December) inaugurated the Mopa International Airport in Goa.

Chief Minister of Goa, Dr Pramod Sawant, Governor of Goa, P S Sreedharan Pillai, Union Minister of Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia, were those present on occasion.

The government has named the new airport after the late Manohar Parrikar.

Late Manohar Parrikar served as Goa's chief minister and union defence minister. A veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Manohar Parrikar, passed away at 63 after battling pancreatic cancer in 2019.

The Prime Minister said, "In the last eight years, I always said that I will return the love and affection I received from people of Goa with full interest in the form of development. This advanced terminal airport is an attempt to return the love that I received from you. I am happy that the airport is named after my dear friend late Manohar Parrikar. With this name, Manohar will remain alive in the heart of the people/commuters."

Opposition to Naming Airport After Parrikar

In the run-up to the inauguration, a few political leaders, social activists and prominent state citizens mobilised themselves under the banner of 'Bhausaheb Bandodkar International airport Namkaran Samiti' demanding the naming of Mopa international airport after Goa's first chief minister.

Dayanand Bandodkar, who was the founder of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), assumed office on 20th December 1963 and continued as Chief Minister till his sudden death on 12th August 1973.

Affectionately referred as 'Bhausaheb', Bandodkar is credited with initiating several measures for the economic and social upliftment of the state.

While MGP initially advocated the merger of Goa with Maharashtra, it later formed the first government in the state.

In the 1967 referendum held six years after the liberation of Goa from Portuguese, around 54.20% of the state's population voted for Goa being recognised as a separate territory, while 43.50% had voted for merging the newly liberated region into the neighbouring Maharashtra.

The MGP led by Bandodkar backed the merger, while a rival political party, United Goans, led by late opposition leader Jack Sequeira had batted for Goa being recognised as an independent region in the Indian Union.

While MGP dominated the state political landscape for first three decades, it subsequently lost its clout. However several followers of Bandodkar continue to play a significant role in the state politics.

In November, the MGP passed a resolution urging the State government to name new Mopa international airport after Bandodkar.

The resolution was passed in the party’s central committee meeting held at its office, Panjim. The resolution proposed by MGP president Deepak Dhavalikar was unanimously adopted.

Dhavalikar said that the late Bandodkar popularly known as Bhausaheb was the party’s founder president and soon after liberation became the first Chief Minister and toiled for the welfare of the people without any discrimination. He said that late Bhausaheb was instrumental for empowering poor people by opening primary schools across the State and brought laws to help poor people and gave corruption-free government.  He said there is demand from all sections of people to name the new Mopa international airport as Dayanand Bandodkar airport. 

Former state RSS chief Subhash Velingkar, former Union Minister Ramakant Khalap, Adv Avinash Bhosle, Dr Vasudev Deshprabhu, Gajananam Mandrekar, Sanjay Barde, Vijay Bhike, Christopher Fonseca and others addressed a public meeting held in Mapusa in the first week of December demanding that the airport be named after Bhausaheb (Dayanand) Bandodkar. Bandodkar was the founder of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP).

"If the government does not give Goa's first CM Dayanand Bandodkar's name to the Mopa international airport then this government will have no right to govern. Goa is on an edge. If they fail to name the airport after the first CM of Goa then a new political grouping will take place in the State and we will leave no stone unturned to bring that change," Velingkar said while addressing the gathering.

"Bandodkar fostered Goan values and enriched the culture of Goa in his governance but since 2012 the BJP-led government has only destroyed the culture of Goa." Velingkar further said.

In the 2017 assembly election run-up, Velingkar launched a regional outfit, Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM), after he had a bitter fallout with later Parrikar. Velingkar was removed from the Sangh Parivar in 2016 for continually criticising the then CM Parrikar for giving grants to English-medium schools in the State.

GSM, which contested the 2017 elections in alliance with Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Shiv Sena, failed to win any seats.

Khalap demanded that Mopa airport be named Dayanand International Airport, Dabolim airport be named Dr Jack De Sequeira International Airport, and Goa University Complex be named Shashikala Kakodkar Knowledge City.

"We already have Manohar Parrikar Law School in Goa University as well as a Defence Research Institute in Delhi besides a mausoleum at Miramar. Canacona Highway is also named after Manohar Parrikar," he said. 

Khalap suggested that Goa Medical College Complex, Bambolim, may be named Dr Wilfred De Souza Health City.

Khalap also claimed that the Goa government was trying to turn the State into Singapore by increasing the number of casinos in the State.

"The issue is not only limited to naming the Mopa airport after Bhausaheb Bandodkar but it is necessary to name it to preserve the precious land and Goemkarpon," Khalap said.

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