In the midst of a controversy over austerity measures imposed by his ministry, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday arrived in Kolkata from New Delhi, flying economy class with a budget airline.
"It's nothing new to me. During elections and whenever I travel on commercial
flights, I almost (always) travelled economy class. It's nothing new," he told reporters.
His office said in Delhi that he would return on Sunday by economy class on an Air India flight.
Sources said that he might also cancel a visit to Cyprus for a Commonwealth Ministers' meeting to which he had planned to go by a special aircraft.
They said even if he flies abroad for a World Bank meeting in Turkey sometime later, he would fly ordinary class.
Austerity measures prescribed by Mukherjee's ministry were questioned by his cabinet colleagues during a meeting of the Cabinet on Thursday.
The Finance Ministry had asked ministers to undertake all official travel only by economy class, besides avoiding holding meetings in five-star hotels.
At the Cabinet meeting, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had sought to know whether he could host his foreign counterparts, who had treated him to lunch and dinners when he was abroad, in five-star hotels.
Commerce Minister Anand Sharma wanted travel by first class in international flights citing long hours of journey.
Mukherjee later sought to downplay the controversy, saying it could be due to some misunderstanding.
During a media interaction on Friday, he said the Finance Ministry had only made a request to ministers, MPs and officials -- entitled to travel by the executive class -- to take the economy class in domestic flights and that in international flights the ministers could travel by executive class.
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