Tirupati: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today
offered prayers at the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara
at Tirumala near here.
He laid the foundation of the new Tirupati International Airport at
Renigunta near here this evening.
On arrival, Singh was accorded a traditional reception by
the high priests who, amid chanting of vedic hymns, escorted
him to the sanctum sanctorum.
The Prime Minister spent about ten minutes praying before
the idol of Lord Venkateswara when the chief priest performed
the rituals, temple authorities said.
Before leaving the sanctum sanctorum, Singh made an
offering in the temple `Hundi` (offering box), they said.
Singh was blessed by priests amid chanting of mantras and
hymns at the Sri Ranganayaka Mandapam inside the shrine.
Andhra Pradesh Endowments Minister G Venkata Reddy presented
Singh with a sacred silk cloth, laddu `prasadam` and holy
It was Singh`s second visit to the 2000-year-old hill
temple, the first being on September 25, 2005, they added.
Earlier, Singh flew into the temple town from New Delhi
by an IAF aircraft. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah
was indisposed and Governor ESL Narasimhan received the Prime
Minister, who was accompanied by Union Ministers, Vilasrao
Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Praful Patel, Veerappa Moily
and Panabaka Lakshmi.
A thick security blanket was in place in view of the
Prime Minister`s visit.
The Airports Authority of India is spending Rs 300 crore
on the project wherein the existing domestic airport is being
upgraded into an international one.
However, the expansion work is said to be marred by
problems over acquisition of over 400 acres for the airport
The state government has already handed over about 290
acres to the AAI.
The problem in acquisition of land has led to delay in
taking up the airport expansion in the last two years,
official sources said.
The state government has allotted Rs 133 crore for land
However, Chief Minister K Rosaiah -- whose speech was read
out at the function as he could not attend because of ill
health -- appealed to the Prime Minister to direct the AAI to
bear the cost of land acquisition for expansion of airports at
Vijayawada, Rajahmundry and other places in the state.
"The AAI has been insisting that the state government bear
the entire cost of land acquisition and other infrastructure.
This would be a huge burden on the state government`s
meagre resources," he said.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and others were
present on the occasion.