Shivamogga airport
The Shivamogga airport is located 325 km from Bengaluru. Image: Twitter/@alstonepanels

Karnataka BJP divided over renaming Shivamogga airport after Yediyurappa

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An airport has deepened the fissures between the two best known figures in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka. At a time when the BJP is keen to put up a united face ahead of assembly elections, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s decision to name the Shivamogga Airport after his predecessor BS Yediyurappa has backfired.

The airport is located 325 km from Bengaluru. Once the airport opens, the travel time will be cut from 5 hours and 30 minutes by road to one hour by air.

Instead of being pleased, BSY, as the former BJP Chief Minister is better known, has rejected the idea and proposed that the airport should be named after noted Kannada poet Kuvempu.

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The controversy could’nt have come at a worse time.

Modi inauguration

The airport is to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 27.

The BJP and Bommai hoped to please BSY, the most prominent leader of the influential Lingayat community, more so as February 27 will mark the latter’s 80th birthday.

But with BSY dumping the idea, the BJP rank and file is in a state of confusion.

This has also exposed the chasm between the Chief Minister and BSY and revealed that not everything is fine even ahead of the assembly elections where the BJP is facing a stiff challenge from both the Congress and the JD-S.

Bommai had expected his move to pacify BSY’s followers in the party, especially the Lingayats, who are not happy with the party leadership ever since the veteran leader was asked to step down from the chief minister’s post.

Poet Kuvempu

BSY instead ended up suggesting Kuvempu, a famous poet from the other Vokkaliga community. Kuvempu (1904-94) never showed any faith in caste and communities although recent politics underlines his Vokkaliga identity.

The Congress had expressed unhappiness over naming the airport after BSY.

A senior BJP leader said the episode has exposed the divided opinions in the party.

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“Normally everything will be decided at the party level and it will be conveyed or expressed by its leaders. But in this case, we have failed to do so,” he added.

The party is now wondering what name to give the airport.

In April 2022, the Bommai cabinet had approved naming the Shimoga Airport after BSY. Bommai had said the decision will be sent to the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation for approval.

Vetoing Bommai

But when the issue came up again, BSY derailed Bommai’s – and the cabinet’s – idea. BSY has already written to Chief Minister Bommai. “My service for the development of the state is less when compared to the personalities who have worked harder than me for the development of the nation,” he said.

He requested that the new airport should be named after people who have contributed to the development and history of the country by discussing it in an appropriate forum.

When Bommai during a visit to Shivamogga reiterated that the airport will be named after BSY, the latter threw up the name of Kannada poet and Jnanpith winner Kuvempu (Kuppalli Venkatappa Puttappa).

BSY’s displeasure

He added: “There is no reason why the newly constructed airport in Shimoga should be named after me. I don’t like (it).

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“We have decided to name it after Rashtrakavi Kuvempu, the greatest poet this country has seen in the 20th century. Kuvempu composed the Nada Gita,” he added. For good measure, BSY added: “Narendra Modi will visit Shimoga on February 27. That day, the Prime Minister himself will announce the name of national poet Kuvempu.”

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