In the latest flashpoint in the political crisis in Jharkhand, BJP MPs Nishikant Dubey and Manoj Tiwari and seven others have been charged in a trespassing case after allegedly forcing officials at Deoghar airport to release a chartered flight for departure after sunset.
The airport, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July, has yet to be released for night flights. Flight services at the airport are currently allowed until half an hour before sunset.
The development comes against the backdrop of frenetic political developments in Jharkhand after the Election Commission recommended the disqualification of Prime Minister Hemant Soren for allegedly awarding himself a mining lease.
The ruling parties — Hemant Soren-led Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Congress — have accused the BJP of trying to overthrow the government. Over the past few weeks, JMM and Congressional MLAs have shifted to resorts in an effort to smooth out the BJP’s alleged poaching efforts.
At the center of the new row is Godda MP Nishikant Dubey, the prominent face of the BJP in Jharkhand, which has demanded interim polls in the state.
It is alleged that Mr. Dubey, accompanied by his sons and Mr. Tiwari, among others, entered the high-security air traffic control area (ATC) on August 31 and forced the officials to clear their chartered aircraft for departure.
Nine individuals, including Mr Dubey, Mr Tiwari and the airport director, have been charged with endangering the life or safety of others and of criminal offences, police said. The FIR was registered following a complaint from Suman Anan, who is responsible for airport security.
The incident has also sparked a heated argument between Mr Dubey and Deoghar Deputy Commissioner Manjunath Bhajantri.
The IAS officer has written about the matter to the Chief Secretary, Cabinet Coordination (Civil Aviation), Jharkhand. The MP has also written to the district police chief, accusing the bureaucrat of hindering his work.
The letter said the airport security officer said he was “shocked and alarmed” after Mr Dubey and others entered the ATC room in violation of security. “The responsible security agency further noted that the pilot and passengers were exerting pressure to obtain take-off clearance. As a result, the ATC clearance was given,” it added.
Addressing the IAS officer, Dubey tweeted that he is a “chamcha” – meaning footman – of the Chief Minister.
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 की इजाज़त किसने दी ? 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 and asked how the chartered plane took off after sunset when night flights are not allowed at the airport. He also wondered how the MPs, his sons and others entered the high-security ATC area.
Night landing issues are subject, we are reluctant to comment on them.
But if there is no night landing facility/IFR and so many flights are canceled every other day, how did your chartered plane take off at 1817 when the sunset was 1803? https://t.co/tXozRRHXs8
— Manjunath Bhajantri IAS (@mbhajantri) September 2, 2022
The JMM, targeting the BJP MP, has said whether he has been charged with creating a stir at the airport and is calling on Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and aviation regulator DGCA to take action in the matter.
Mr Dubey has said he was barefoot and his sons had followed him with his slippers. He also said that the flight departed at 6:28 PM and that it is allowed to take off within half an hour of sunset. He reprimanded the deputy commissioner, saying he has nothing to do to “stick his nose” at the case.