New Delhi, July 1: Union Minister Kiren Rijiju was at the centre of a controversy for delaying an Air India flight from Leh to Delhi for about an hour and for the offloading of three of its passengers, including a child, allegedly to accommodate him and his aide.
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.
While an Air India spokesman said it has sought more details on the incident, Rijuju 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.