Narendra Modi flew into the city from Greece early on Saturday to felicitate Isro scientists who soft-landed Chandrayaan-3 on the moon three days ago, as the BJP turned the daybreak visit into a spectacle with thousands of party workers and state leaders lined up to greet the Prime Minister, the last leg of whose journey was converted into a roadshow.
The Prime Minister, who addressed the scientists at the Isro Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network at the Peenya Industrial Area, named the spot where Chandrayaan-3 landed as Shiv Shakti Point and the location where Chandrayaan-2 crash-landed in 2019 as Tiranga. He announced that August 23 will henceforth be observed as National Space Day to commemorate the moon-landing of the Vikram lander module.
But the Prime Minister’s short visit to meet the Isro scientists, preceded by a 2km roadshow while heading to Istrac during which he stood on the footboard of a car and greeted people lining the roads with national flags, was not devoid of controversy since neither chief minister Siddaramaiah nor his deputy D.K. Shivakumar were present to receive him at the HAL Airport when the special flight carrying him landed around 6am.
Modi, in his brief address to party workers outside the airport, said he had requested the chief minister and his deputy not to take the trouble of being at the airport so early in the morning. “I had requested the honourable chief minister, deputy chief minister and the governor not to take the trouble of being at the airport so early in the morning for the sake of protocol,” Modi said.
“Since I had to come from so far away, and there could be a delay of a few minutes, I had requested the honourable chief minister, deputy chief minister and the governor not to take the trouble of coming so early in the morning,” he added.
“So I suggested that the chief minister and deputy chief minister can follow the protocol when I come next. I am grateful for their cooperation,” the Prime Minister
Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh had a different story. “He (Modi) is apparently so irritated with the CM and Deputy CM of Karnataka for felicitating the scientists of ISRO before him that he has purportedly barred the CM from receiving him at the airport, going against protocol. This is nothing but petulant petty politics,” Ramesh wrote on X late on Friday.
Both Siddaramiah and Shivakumar had separately visited Istrac after the moon landing to greet the scientists and also celebrated the achievement by releasing full-page advertisements in several English and Kannada dailies.
“Has PM Modi forgotten CM Modi’s visit to the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad on 22nd Oct, 2008, just after the successful launch of the Chandrayaan-I at a time when Dr Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister?” Ramesh asked.
Shivakumar, however, played it down by saying he and the chief minister would have received the Prime Minister but for the communication from the PMO. “Since we had information from the Prime Minister’s Office, officially, we wanted to respect him. We don’t want to do politics. Political games are over. Now we are looking at development,” he told reporters after BJP leader R. Ashok questioned their absence at the airport.
“Either me or the chief minister was ready to go and receive him (Modi) whatever the time maybe,” he added.
Shivakumar urged Ashok to check with the PMO. “Ashok doesn’t know… (he) has been kept out of the scene. Let him ask the Prime Minister’s Office,” the deputy chief minister said.
At ISTRAC, the Prime Minister was received by Isro chairman S. Somanath and the entire Chandrayaan-3 team.