Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. (HT_PRINT)
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. (HT_PRINT)

Maharashtra govt to seek report from Governor secretariat over aircraft fiasco

  • Thackeray-led Maharashtra government on Thursday denied permission to the Governor to use the state’s airplane to travel to Dehradun.
By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
UPDATED ON FEB 13, 2021 12:08 AM IST

The Maharashtra government will seek a report from Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s office over the incident on Thursday when the latter was denied state's aircraft to fly to Uttarakhand. The report will be sought from the secretary to the Governor Santosh Kumar by the state general administration department, chief secretary Sanjay Kumar told Hindustan Times on Friday.

Koshyari had to face an embarrassment on Thursday as he went to Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSMIA) and boarded a state's aircraft for travelling to Dehradun but had to deplane and take a commercial flight since the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) had not approved the use of state's plane.

After the incident, the CMO on Thursday blamed the Raj Bhavan secretariat saying that latter should have ensured that they had permission to use the aircraft before the governor departed from his official residence. Indicating action against the officials for not informing the Governor about permission updates, the CMO also said that chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had already directed the administration to fix the responsibility on the concerned officials for negligence.

Sanjay Kumar said on Friday, “A report will be sought from the Governor's secretary (Santosh Kumar) over the incident. The state aviation department secretary will be directed to seek the report and the state government will take further decisions.”

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On Friday, Thackeray avoided reacting to the controversy and remarked that the government will be developing an airstrip at Palghar so that everyone’s aircraft can land there. He was responding to a question about the incident. Thackeray also chose to use a helipad at Mahalaxmi racecourse instead of the one at Raj Bhavan (Governor house at Malabar Hill) following the aircraft controversy, the officials said.

He was on a visit to Palghar district where he reviewed the development schemes and basic infrastructure. “I want to develop a small airstrip in Palghar so that everyone’s airplane can be landed here in the district,” Thackeray said when asked that the state government has denied the Governor to use its aircraft for flying to Dehradun in Uttarakhand.

Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government on Thursday denied permission to Koshyari to use the state’s six-seater Cessna Citation XLS aeroplane to travel to Dehradun. This led to a controversy and blame game between the Raj Bhavan secretariat and the state.

According to Raj Bhavan, Koshyari had reached the international airport and even boarded the state’s aircraft but he was told the plane would not take off as the CMO had not approved the travel, so consequently, permission for flying was not sought from the flying authority. The Governor then took a commercial flight to Dehradun.

Ties likely to worsen?

The incident, however, is likely to worsen the already strained relations between Thackeray government and Koshyari. According to senior government officials, Koshyari and Thackeray are not on talking terms beyond customary exchanges for the last many months. Recently, they met at the state’s Republic Day function at Shivaji Park, Dadar, but there was hardly any interaction between them, the officials said.

“He (Uddhav Thackeray) should understand we also have some political compulsions. The Governor told this to Rashmi Thackeray, CM's wife during a brief interaction,” said a senior bureaucrat, requesting anonymity.

Koshyari was referring to the appointment of 12 names as members of the state legislative council (MLC) under his (Governor’s) quota). The state cabinet had made the recommendation to Koshyari to nominate them to the Upper House as per the norms on November 6, last year. However, he is yet to take the decision, which has upset the chief minister and MVA leaders.

The chief minister has not visited Raj Bhavan, official residence cum office of the Governor, for nearly nine months. Last time, he called on Koshyari after being elected as the member of the legislative council on May 18. His wife and son and environment minister Aaditya Thackeray were also present.

Before that, Thackeray had called on the Governor at the Raj Bhavan on May 1. The meeting lasted for about 20 minutes. It was held a day after Koshyari wrote to the Election commission of India (ECI) requesting it to hold biennial elections to the nine vacant seats of the state legislative council at the earliest to facilitate Thackeray's election to the Upper House of the state legislature. The biennial elections for the nine vacant seats were postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Later, Thackeray also skipped a meeting called by the Governor to review the Covid-19 pandemic on May 21, the officials said.

Meanwhile, Koshyari attended the 122th IAS induction program at the Lal Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie on Friday. He also met with Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and discussed the ongoing rescue operation following the glacier disaster in Chamoli. The Governor was expected to return in the state government’s aircraft but will be returning to Mumbai in a commercial flight on Saturday.

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