Maharashtra Governor forced to take a commercial plane to Dehradun from Mumbai airport after he was refused the use of the State’s plane by the government

Published : February 12, 2021 15:09 IST

Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at the Republic Day celebrations in Mumbai on January 26. Photo: SHASHANK PARADE/PTI

The simmering tension between Maharashtra’s ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has once again come to a boil. And this time, it centred around Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.

The sequence of events went this way. The Governor arrived at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International (CSIM) Airport at 9 a.m. on February 11 and boarded the State government’s Cessna plane but was informed that the plane did not have the necessary permission to fly. The Governor deplaned and took a commercial flight to his destination, Dehradun.

A Raj Bhavan communique says: “With reference to certain inaccurate reports appearing in media, it is clarified as under:

1. The Hon’ble Governor of Maharashtra and Goa Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari is scheduled to preside over the Official Programme of the Valedictory Function of the 122nd Induction Training Programme of IAS officers at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie, Uttarakhand at 1000 hrs on Friday, 12 February 2021.

2. In this connection, the Governor was scheduled to depart from CSIM Airport Mumbai for Dehradun at 1000 hrs on Thursday 11th February 2021.

3. In preparation of the visit, the Governor’s Secretariat had written to Government of Maharashtra authorities seeking permission for the use of Government Aircraft by the Hon’ble Governor, well in advance on 2nd February 2021. The office of the Chief Minister was also informed.

4. Today, on 11th February 2021, the Hon’ble Governor reached the CSIM Airport at 1000 hrs and boarded the government plane. However, the Hon’ble Governor was informed that the permission for the use of Government Aircraft had not been received.

5. As directed by the Hon’ble Governor, tickets for Dehradun were booked for the Governor on a Commercial Aircraft leaving Mumbai at 1215 hrs immediately and accordingly, he left for Dehradun.”

There are wheels within wheels here. The normal procedure for use of the State’s aircraft is to apply to the Chief Minister and get his clearance for usage. However, in the case of the Governor’s office, it is apparently an unsaid and accepted policy that approvals for a flight are taken for granted.

The Governor’s office says that it had followed the necessary protocol and had applied for the use of the plane on February 2. The Chief Minister’s office says that it had informed Raj Bhavan a day before the date of travel that permission had not been given.

In a statement, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) absolved itself, saying it was expected that Raj Bhavan officials would plan the Governor’s air travel only after permissions had been received. It laid the blame on the Raj Bhavan officials, saying they did not verify if approval had been given. It went a step further and said the CMO took “serious note” of the incident which “did not take adequate care of persons holding important positions such as the Governor” and that the Chief Minister wanted the person in Raj Bhavan responsible for this lapse identified.

The episode sparked outrage from the BJP, with Devendra Fadnavis, former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, posting in Twitter: “Government’s plane is not anyone’s personal property! Making Hon Governor get off the plane? Where does so much ego in MVA Govt come from? Never ever seen such egoistic Govt in Maharashtra.”

This was not the first time the MVA and Governor Koshyari have had a run-in. The most recent incident was during the festival season in October last year. People were expecting places of worship to be opened, but Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray nipped this in the bud saying lockdown overruled that and it would be lifted gradually in the State. Reacting to the refusal to reopen worship at temples, the Governor had written to the CMO asking if the Chief Minister had turned secular. The choice of words in the letter raised eyebrows, but Thackeray batted aside what, to him, was an insulting inuendo by saying he did not need a Hindutva certificate from anyone.

The very first sign of discord between the Governor and Thackeray appeared soon after the MVA was formed. To recap, the Vidhan Sabha elections were won by the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, but a rift was created between the two parties when the BJP said no promises were made to share the Chief Minister’s post during their tenure. An enraged Thackeray broke away from the BJP and joined with the National Congress Party’s (NCP) Sharad Pawar, who was waiting in the wings for just such an opportunity. Thus, the MVA was formed. The BJP was left seething and has not forgiven the Sena.

In March last year, the Sena alleged that the Governor was deliberately delaying the acceptance of the Cabinet’s recommendation to nominate Thackeray as a member of the Legislative Assembly, a necessary move if he was to remain Chief Minister. Though the recommendation was ultimately accepted, the Governor took his time over it.

In June last year, the Governor expressed his displeasure when Thackeray cancelled the examinations of final year university students. The Governor termed the decision “unprecedented” and “arbitrary”. Even during the pandemic, differences between the two offices was not bridged. Thackeray did not attend a meeting convened by the Governor to examine the State’s tackling of the pandemic.

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