- Mamata Banerjee leading campaign against notes ban
- Plane was low on fuel yesterday, but had to delay landing
- Before landing at Kolkata, plane made to circle airport for 30 minutes
The IndiGo flight from Patna to Kolkata was reported short of fuel, but was made to circle the airport for nearly 30 minutes as it waited in line for clearance to land. When it touched down, the West Bengal Chief Minister's plane was surrounded by fire engines and ambulances, standard protocol for emergencies.
"The plane was about to crash... we want to bring to notice that life of Mamata Banerjee is in danger," said Sudip Bandyopadhyay from Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress.
Ms Banerjee's flight was an hour late to take off from Patna which meant that by the time it approached Kolkata, it was at the back of a row of planes waiting to land, said sources, citing congestion as the main reason for her plane being asked to spend a half hour hovering above the Kolkata airport. But her party says that given that the Chief Minister was on the IndiGo flight, it should have been prioritized.
In a statement today, IndiGo said that the pilot's remarks to Air Traffic Controllers were misunderstood and that he did not suggest he was running precariously low on fuel. The pilot reportedly said he had fuel for "an extra eight minutes" but officials thought he meant he had fuel for only eight minutes.
Ms Banerjee has devoted her attention in the last few weeks to campaigning aggressively against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's sudden withdrawal of 500-and 1,000-rupee notes. In addition to Delhi, she has held rallies against the demonetisation reform in Lucknow and Patna, from where she flew back to Kolkata yesterday. Her party disagrees that the government's move will curtail black money and says it is instead punishing the poor of rural India who transact mainly in cash and are now stranded without any currency.
The Trinamool appeared to link her plane's problematic landing with her clashes with the government.
"Is there more to this than meets the eye?" asked Derek O'Brien, also of the Trinamool. There is a school of thought that this is a conspiracy," he said in the Rajya Sabha.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said an inquiry has been ordered to determine why three planes, including Ms Banerjee's, did not have as much fuel as required to be able to withstand a delay in landing.
The eastern chief of the Airports Authority of India, Sanjay Jain, said, "There was no conspiracy against the Chief Minister."