The airport at Mohali will be officially renamed as the ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport, Chandigarh’ on Wednesday.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on the name change during his last ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio address, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be officially christening the airport in a ceremony on the 115th birth anniversary of the icon.
The ceremony will attended by Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, Haryana Governor Bandaru Dattatraya, among other dignitaries. Mann has welcomed the move, which had been a source of controversy in the past, due to the demand to add Mohali, Chandigarh and Panchkula to the name of the airport.
“Finally our efforts paid off. On behalf of entire Punjab, we welcome the decision of naming the Chandigarh airport after Shaheed Bhagat Singh ji," Mann said in a tweet in Punjabi. A similar sentiment was expressed by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
Political reverence to the Freedom fighter Bhagat Singh has increased in recent times. The Aam Aadmi Party has adopted the leader and his thoughts as one of its guiding ideologies. But the AAP is not the only party which has revered the martyr over the years.
‘Bhagat Singh Loved Across Left and Right’
Prof Chaman Lal, who has spent his life studying the revolutionary, attributed Bhagat Singh’s broad appeal to the breadth of his ideals. “Anyone who has done a lay reading of Bhagat Singh’s writings would know that he sought freedom not only from the British but also from poverty, corruption, discrimination, and communalism, all of which affect all of us in some way," he told the Indian Express.
An AAP functionary talked to thePrint on the reason why AAP has adopted Singh as one its national personas. “After coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi put Gandhi at the centre of his governance and executive policies — starting with the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission. The AAP definitely needed a different legacy. Embracing Bhagat Singh had an advantage. Unlike Gandhi, who also has haters in certain political sections affiliated to the right wing, Bhagat Singh is respected both by the Right and the Left. Bhagat Singh is respected across the nation and his legacy does not polarise voters,” he said.
AAP’s Reverence to Leader
The party has emphasised carrying on the legacy of two figures - Dr BR Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh - from India’s independence struggle, hoping that this will provide it with a nationalistic identity distinct from established parties such as the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, a report by the Week states.
After the AAP’s victory in Punjab assembly elections, the oath-taking of Bhagwant Mann as Punjab’s new chief minister took place not at the Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh, as has been customary, but at Khatkar Kalan, Bhagat Singh’s birthplace. Mann, who describes himself as a fervent supporter of the revolutionary, always wears a yellow turban in his honour. And AAP leaders in the state have made the yellow turban a fashion statement.
However, the popular and much circulated picture of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh in a yellow turban is based on a 1975 painting. In reality, the revolutionary, who was only 23 when he was hanged on March 23, 1931, never wore a yellow turban, historians have said.
The Mann government has also Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom day as a public holiday. Delhi CM and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal had announced that only photographs of Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh would be displayed in Delhi government offices. Later, it was clarified that photos of Mahatma Gandhi would remain in the offices. Portraits of Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh can be seen in the background of Kejriwal and Mann’s virtual press conferences.
A Common Hero
AAP has not been the only political party to have honoured Bhagat Singh. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) demand for a Bharat Ratna for former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met with opposition from the RSS, which suggested that “Bhagat Singh or the Indian soldier" deserved the country’s highest civilian honour, a report by thePrint highlighted.
And in 2015, Narendra Modi became the second prime minister to visit Hussainiwala while wearing a basanti turban. Previously, as the PM candidate in 2013, he chose to release a book about Singh’s prison diary, despite the fact that it is a part treatise on his Leftist ideology, Indian Express reported.
Going further past, on March 23, 1985, months after PM Indira Gandhi’s assassination, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi sought to invoke Bhagat Singh when he visited the National Martyrs’ Memorial at Hussainiwala in Ferozepur district.
However, not just political parties or outfits, the freedom fighter had been revered by farm union leaders during their protest against the Centre’s farm laws as well. The farm leaders have blamed the Aam Aadmi Party for appropriating Singh’s image while not following upon his ideals.