| Yechury: Defiant
New Delhi, Jan. 12: The Manmohan Singh government today played the Commonwealth Games card to neutralise the Left’s opposition to plans for modernisation of Mumbai and Delhi airports.
Left and UPA leaders spent over an hour at a co-ordination committee meeting discussing the project.
Left parties submitted a two-page note to the government and repeated their stand that the Airports Authority of India (AAI) should handle the modernisation, not private parties.
Finance minister P. Chidambaram pointed out to the Left that Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa were open to private participation in upgrading Calcutta and Chennai airports.
Bhattacharjee had earlier said: “We have to see which is the best model.” His party colleagues, however, insisted today there was no question of using the same modernisation model for Calcutta and Chennai.
Faced with continued opposition, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee offered an argument some Left leaders found difficult to dismiss. He said the Commonwealth Games are scheduled to be held in Delhi in 2009.
But the venue will have to be cancelled if Mumbai and Delhi airports ' the two main entry points for international participants ' are not upgraded and ready by then.
In view of the urgency, the CPI appeared to be willing to go along with the government’s plans. But the CPM remained defiant, with politburo member Sitaram Yechury asking why the Centre had delayed handing over the project to AAI.
Mukherjee pointed out that AAI has a Rs 3,000-crore reserve fund while modernisation of the Delhi and Mumbai airports will require Rs 12,000 crore.
The Centre has already given the Left an assurance that AAI will retain majority shareholding and there would be no retrenchment.