New Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, roasted by opposition parties in the state for taking a chartered flight to Delhi to meet with the Congress leadership, defended himself on Wednesday but did not reveal who paid for the ride.
"Gareeb da munda jet pe chad gaya kya takleef hai (So what if a poor man's son takes a jet)," Mr Channi said, bombarded by questions about flying on a "private jet" on Tuesday.
Was it a private flight or one at the cost of the taxpayer, reporters asked him. Mr Channi climbed into his car without a response.
Mr Channi, who had called himself a genuine "aam aadmi (common man)" in his first press conference after being sworn in as Chief Minister, has been slammed by the opposition Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
An image tweeted by Punjab Congress chief Navjot Sidhu yesterday spurred the attacks. Mr Channi, Mr Sidhu, and two deputy Chief Ministers were seen standing next to a small plane in the photo.
"In line of duty!!" - Mr Sidhu tweeted, sharing the image. The group was flying to Delhi for a meeting with the Congress leadership on ministers for the new Punjab cabinet after Amarinder Singh's resignation last weekend.
In line of duty, reached Amritsar pic.twitter.com/jAyG9Cou79— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) September 21, 2021
The Akali Dal sneered at the Congress for the use of "private jets for a 250 KM ride to Delhi" and AAP said the Congress had failed to quit "its royal habits".
"After saying that they stand with the common man, Congress leaders take private jets to travel just 250 KM from Chandigarh to Delhi. Are there no normal flights or cars that can be used? Or is this chest thumping aimed at propagation of Gandhi family's Delhi Darbar culture," said the Akali Dal in a tweet.
After saying that they stand with the common man, INC leaders take private jets to travel just 250 KMs from Chandigarh to Delhi. Are there no normal flights or cars that can be used? Or is this chest thumping aimed at propagation of Gandhi family's Delhi Darbar culture? https://t.co/tw8kglW5K1— Shiromani Akali Dal (@Akali_Dal_) September 21, 2021
AAP's Harpal Singh Cheema, the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, said, "No one becomes a common man by saying it, only his deeds reveal the truth of his personality. The real faces of Channi, Sidhu, who were calling themselves poor common men a day before, have been exposed." Even former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's team took a swipe at them.
Wow….what a 'gareeban di sarkar'! A 16-seater Learjet to ferry 4 people when a 5-seater official chopper was available. I'm now beginning to feel I sleepwalked through the last 4 & a half years, believing Punjab to be in a fiscal mess. My bad! 1/2 https://t.co/IjAPY4tm7A— Raveen Thukral (@RT_Media_Capt) September 21, 2021
Raveen Thukral, the media advisor to Mr Singh, tweeted: "Wow...what a 'gareeban di sarkar' (government of the poor)! A 16-seater Learjet to ferry 4 people when a 5-seater official chopper was available. I'm now beginning to feel I sleepwalked through the last four and a half years, believing Punjab to be in a fiscal mess. My bad!"