Three passengers were deboarded on June 24 in a Delhi bound Air India flight to accommodate Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State of Home and his personal assistant (PA).
However, Rijiju was quick to deny the allegation and said that the flight was delayed due to technical reasons. A national news channel released a 35-second footage allegedly showing the passengers confronting Rijiju for the delay caused.
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The three deboarded passengers includes an Airforce officer, his wife and their child. The flight was scheduled to take off at 10.35 PM, but due to the incident it took off only at 11.15 PM.
According to sources, the aircraft doors were shut for takeoff on June 24 but the flight did not depart at its scheduled time as Rijuju, along ith his PA, had to be onboard.
When he arrived, three passengers were allegedly deboarded to accommodate the minister and his PA, sources said.
While an Air India spokesman said it has sought more details on the incident, Rijiju claimed it was not a "delay" as the departure of the flight was "preponed" due to technical reasons.
"The departure was at 1140 hrs...I don't know...Somehow there was a rescheduling issue...It was not a delay..It was a communication gap," Rijiju said.
Rijiju told PTI from Darjeeling that he was returning to Delhi after taking part the "Sindhu Darshan" festival on June 24 along with Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh in an Air India flight which was "suddenly rescheduled."
"I was supposed to return from Leh in a helicopter. But due to bad weather, the helicopter could not come from Srinagar to take me from Leh. Then the Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister asked me to accompany him in the Air India flight which was supposed to depart at 11.40 AM.
"But to our utter surprise, when we reached the Leh airport at 10.20, we found that the door of the aircraft was closed and it was about to take off. Then the Deputy Chief Minister lodged a strong protest with the Civil Aviation Minister for the unannounced rescheduling of the aircraft," Rijiju said.
He said that after sometime, he and Singh were allowed to board the plane "and we could fly."
Asked whether three passengers were made to deboard the flight to accommodate him, Rijiju said he was not aware of any such thing.
"I am totally unaware whether anyone was asked to deboard. If it was done, it is completely wrong and unacceptable," he said.
Yesterday, in a similar controversy national carrier Air India had to delay the departure of its Newark flight from Mumbai by nearly an hour after it was reported that the principal secretary to Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had not carried his passport with valid visa.
The incident took place on Monday when Fadnavis was leaving on a week-long visit to the US along with his industries minister Subhash Desai, chief secratary Swadheen Kshatriya and principal secretary Pravin Pardeshi besides other delegation members.
(With inputs from PTI)