With CM scheduled to open airport on October 7, Rane announces that Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia will launch project on October 9, kicking up another storm
After the controversial ‘slapgate’ fiasco, the inauguration of an airport in Maharashtra’s verdant Konkan region has become the new flashpoint between bitter adversaries, Union Minister Narayan Rane and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Last week, the Sena MP for Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Vinayak Raut had announced that the Chipi airport in Sindhudurg district would be inaugurated on October 7 by Mr. Thackeray.
However, on Tuesday, Mr. Rane, the Union Minister of Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises (MSME) announced that the airport, which is expected to propel the Konkan region in the country’s air-map, would be inaugurated by Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on October 9, kicking up another storm in the process.
An irate Mr. Raut hit out against Mr. Rane on Wednesday, questioning his authority to declare an inauguration date. “The Chipi airport project belongs entirely to Maharashtra. The Central government only issues licences. Who are you [Mr. Rane] to say that there is no need for the Chief Minister to inaugurate the project?” said Mr. Raut.
He further alleged that Mr. Rane, who had performed the groundbreaking ceremony of Chipi airport in 1990, then ‘disappeared’ for 22 years. “He [Mr. Rane] cannot take credit for the Chipi Airport. [Sena leaders] Vaibhav Naik, Deepak Kesarkar and myself inspected the site, provided funds for its development, but we do not want to take credit. But Mr. Rane, who boasts that the airport was his doing, has no business taking any credit at all,” said the Sena MP.
The Chipi airport, constructed at a cost of more than ₹500 crore, will be offering inter-State connectivity between Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu among others, while offering passengers direct access to the Konkan by air instead of having to land first at Mumbai, Pune or Goa airports to reach the region.
Last month, relations between Mr. Rane and Mr. Thackeray, hostile at the best of times, hit a new low after the Union Minister intemperately remarked he would have given Mr. Thackeray ‘a tight slap’ for allegedly forgetting the number of years of India’s Independence during the Chief Minister’s August 15 speech.
His remarks triggered a wave of anger among Sena activists, who pelted stones on BJP party offices in Nashik, Pune and Mumbai and clashed with their BJP counterparts in Mumbai city and elsewhere. No less than five FIRs were filed against the Union Minister at Nashik, Pune, Mahad and parts of Mumbai, with the Nashik Police Commissioner issuing a warrant for Mr. Rane’s arrest.
Amid a high-voltage drama played out in the Konkan and western Maharashtra, Mr. Rane was taken into police custody at Ratnagiri and produced at a local court in Raigad district at night. Following a tense hearing, the court finally granted the Minister bail on conditions of furnishing a bail bond of ₹15,000 along with a promise not to repeat the same offence again.
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