New Delhi: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is visiting the US, has in a series of tweets threatened to "initiate proceedings of criminal defamation" over reports that he delayed an Air India flight to New York on Monday.
"I reiterate, the reports of me delaying flight are misleading. Infact when I'd already boarded how can I say I wont travel without delegation?" Mr Fadnavis tweeted and also,"Enough is enough. Once I m back to India I will initiate proceedings of criminal defamation."
On Monday morning, Mr Fadnavis' flight was held up for an hour while his principal secretary Praveen Pardeshi's passport was fetched from home; Mr Pardeshi had arrived at the airport with the wrong passport which did not have the US visa.
An internal Air India memo accessed by NDTV records the delay and says that when the Chief Minister's advise was sought, he "responded that he would not travel without his delegation."
It also says that "offloading of the entire delegation team of 8 pax alongwith 14 pcs of baggage from two different containers," would've further delayed departure.
Mr Fadnavis tweeted today, "If at all any report that has been submitted, states that I refused to travel without my delegation then it is a blatant lie because...passengers sitting besides & behind me are witness that I was sitting quietly waiting for departure. Not even once I asked to offload me."
Amid a flurry of media reports, criticism from the opposition and outrage against "VIP culture" on social media, Mr Fadnavis had tweeted issued an unequivocal denial on Monday, also on Twitter. "The allegation that I forced to delay the flight to New York is false & misleading. I totally deny it," he had said.
Air India had also tweeted that the delay was caused by technical problems.
The Prime Minister's Office has today asked the civil aviation ministry for a report on recent delays in Air India flights on account of VIP travels.
The controversy was revisited today when it emerged that another Air India flight was delayed last week for about an hour and the family of a bureaucrat was taken off to accommodate Union Minister Kiren Rijiju and Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh.
Mr Rijiju has apologised to the passengers offloaded so that he could fly.