In the latest flashpoint in the Jharkhand political crisis, BJP MPs Nishikant Dubey and Manoj Tiwari, and seven others have been charged in a trespassing case after they allegedly forced officials at Deoghar airport to clear a chartered flight for take-off past sunset.
The airport, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July, is yet to be cleared for night operations. Flight services at the airport are currently allowed till half an hour before the sunset.
The development comes against the backdrop of hectic political developments in Jharkhand after the Election Commission recommended the disqualification of Chief Minister Hemant Soren for allegedly awarding a mining lease to himself.
The ruling parties -- the Hemant Soren-led Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Congress -- have accused the BJP of trying to topple the government. The last couple of weeks have seen MLAs of JMM and Congress being shifted to resorts in an attempt to blunt the BJP's alleged poaching efforts.
At the centre of the fresh row is Godda MP Nishikant Dubey, the BJP's prominent face in Jharkhand, who has demanded mid-term polls in the state.
It is alleged that on August 31, Mr Dubey, accompanied by his sons and Mr Tiwari, among others, entered the high-security Air Traffic Control (ATC) area and forced the officials into clearing their chartered plane for take-off.
Nine persons, including Mr Dubey, Mr Tiwari and the airport director, have been charged with endangering the life or safety of others and criminal trespass, police said. The FIR was registered following a complaint by Suman Anan, security in-charge of the airport.
The incident has also sparked a heated exchange between Mr Dubey and Deoghar Deputy Commissioner Manjunath Bhajantri.
The IAS officer has written to the Principal Secretary, Cabinet Coordination (Civil Aviation), Jharkhand, on the issue. The MP has also written to the district police chief, accusing the bureaucrat of obstructing his work.
The letter states that the airport's security in-charge has said that he was "shocked and alarmed" after Mr Dubey and others entered the ATC room in breach of security. "Security in-charge further noticed that the pilot and the passengers were pressurizing that they may be given clearance for the takeoff. As a result, the ATC clearance was given," it added.
Targeting the IAS officer, Mr Dubey tweeted that he is a "chamcha" -- meaning lackey -- of the Chief Minister.
यह एक अपराधी का अंदाज़ है जो ज़बरदस्ती बिना अनुमति के सुरक्षा घेरा तोड़कर घुसता है ।आप एयरपोर्ट के अंदर किस हैसियत से गए ? आपको CCTV देखने की इजाज़त किसने दी ? आप फरषटाईया गए हैं,मुख्यमंत्री की चमचागिरी करिए व मस्त रहिए। pic.twitter.com/gERdX21gFx— Dr Nishikant Dubey (@nishikant_dubey) September 2, 2022
The officer hit back, asking how the chartered plane took off after the sunset when night operations are not allowed at the airport. He also questioned how the MPs, his sons and others entered the high-security ATC area.
Hon'ble MP Sir,— Manjunath Bhajantri IAS (@mbhajantri) September 2, 2022
Night landing matter is subjudice, wud not like to comment on it.
But, when night landing facility/IFR is not there, and so many flights getting cancelled every other day, how did your chartered plane took off at 1817hours when the sunset time was 1803hours? https://t.co/tXozRRHXs8
Targeting the BJP MP, the JMM has said if he has been entrusted with creating ruckus in the airport and appeal to Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia and aviation regulator DGCA to take action in the matter.
Mr Dubey has said that he was barefoot and his sons had followed him with his slippers. He also said that the flight took off at 6.28 pm and that it's permissible to take off within half an hour of sunset. He slammed the deputy commissioner, saying he has no business to "poke his nose" in the matter.