A familiar set of allegations and counter-allegations played out in Punjab Monday with the Opposition gunning for Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, alleging that he was deplaned from a Delhi-bound flight at the Frankfurt airport as he was drunk, a charge denied by the ruling Aam Aadmi Party as baseless. On its part, the Lufthansa Airlines issued a statement that their flight from Frankfurt departed late for Delhi “due to a delayed inbound flight and an aircraft change”.
The clarification from the German airlines came as Opposition in Punjab claimed that flight was delayed by several hours as its staff deplaned Mann and removed his luggage from the hold.
First to launch the attack on Mann was Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. “Disturbing media reports quoting co-passengers say Punjab CM was deplaned from Lufthansa flight as he was too drunk to walk. And it led to a 4-hour flight delay. He missed AAP’s national convention. These reports have embarrassed & shamed Punjabis all over the globe,” Badal said in a tweet.
Badal, in another tweet, also expressed shock that the state government was silent over the “these reports involving their” CM. He also targetted AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal saying he needs to come clean on this issue. “Govt of India must step in as this involves Punjabi & national pride. If he (Mann) was deplaned, GoI must raise the issue with its German counterpart,” Badal said.
Leader of Opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Partap Singh Bajwa sought an inquiry into the matter and shot off a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.
“News streaming on social media that Bhagwant Mann was offloaded along with his entourage from a Lufthansa flight on Saturday at Frankfurt airport, since he was found to be in an inebriated state and declared unfit to travel, is doing the rounds. If it were true, it certainly is a bad reflection on the office Bhagwant Mann is holding. Therefore I would request you, kindly initiate an inquiry for verification of this news from the Lufthansa airlines as it involves not only an individual but the office he represents and such a conduct deserves to be deprecated,” Bajwa stated in the letter.
However, AAP chief spokesperson Malvinder Singh Kang termed the allegations as baseless and bogus, and accused the rival parties of indulging in a negative propaganda to defame the CM.
“The allegations are baseless, bogus and false,” Kang said and alleged that the opposition parties were spreading canards against the chief minister as they cannot digest the fact that he was working hard to get investments into the state.
“He was scheduled to reach India only on Sunday midnight. Where is this deplaning allegation coming from? He did not delay any flight. He was to fly only on Sunday,” Kang told The Indian Express.
A spokesperson of Lufthansa airline said, “Our flight from Frankfurt to Delhi departed later than originally planned due to a delayed inbound flight and an aircraft change.”
As the controversy shrouded his arrival, Mann missed participating in AAP’s convention in Delhi on Sunday and landed in National Capital at midnight. Before boarding the flight from Frankfurt at 7pm ( IST on Sunday), he addressed the AAP convention of AAP through video conference.
Director, media communications, Punjab, Chander Suta Dogra told The Indian Express that all the allegations by Opposition were “baseless, and without a shred of proof.” She said Mann’s flight had to be rescheduled because he was unwell. “These leaders are not able to tolerate a CM from a humble background and are levelling wild allegations against him. They are unable to tolerate that the government is working so hard. Where is the proof? He took another flight because he was unwell,” said Dogra.
Kang sought an unconditional apology from Badal and Bajwa for their “false and frivolous” allegations against Mann. “It is extremely condemnable that the opposition leaders have levelled allegations against Mann without even checking the facts,” Kang added.
However, Akali Dal MP and former union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal hit out at Mann saying “our CM has to stoop so much now that he needs a clean chit from an airline”.
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“The real issue is not the delay in the flight but whether or not he was deplaned from it. The Lufthansa
statement is mysteriously silent on that. Will the CM please speak up? By the way, who has even asked Lufthansa to explain the delay in its flight. Our question is to our CM. Were you (Mann) or were you not deplaned because of drunkenness,” she asked in a tweet.