Row over 'drunk' chief minister on flight

India's Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Tuesday said he would look into allegations that Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann  was removed from a Lufthansa flight at Frankfurt airport last Saturday as he was "drunk".

The alleged incident on the Delhi-bound flight triggered a controversy in Indian politics, with Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal urging the Central government to step in and take the matter up with the German government.

Mr Scindia stressed the importance of verifying the facts: "The incident took place on international soil. We will have to verify facts and it is up to Lufthansa to provide the data. Based on the request sent to me, I will certainly look into it."

Leader of opposition in Punjab and senior Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa demanded the resignation of the chief minister.

Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira too sought clarification on why Mr Mann was deplaned and demanded a public apology from the chief minister for "humiliating Punjab".

Witnesses said Mr Mann was drunk when he boarded the flight and couldn't stand without support, reported The Hindustan Times.

The flight was apparently already delayed by three hours because of a late inbound flight and an aircraft change but it got further delayed as Mr Mann and his team's luggage were removed amid a heated exchange between passengers and the cabin crew.

According to Flightaware, flight LH760 from Frankfurt to Delhi was delayed for four hours. It was scheduled to take off from Germany at 1.40pm (local time) on Saturday but took off at 5.34pm and landed in Delhi at 4.40am (Indian Standard Time) on Sunday.

A Lufthansa spokesperson told the Hindustan Times newspaper that its flight from Frankfurt to Delhi departed late due to a delayed inbound flight and an aircraft change.

"For data protection reasons, we do not provide any information regarding individual passengers," said the spokesman.

On Monday, Mr Badal tweeted: "Disturbing media reports quoting fellow passengers say Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann was deplaned from a Lufthansa flight as he was too drunk to walk. And it led to a four-hour flight delay.

"He missed AAP's (Aam Admi Party's) national convention. These reports have embarrassed and shamed Punjabis all over the globe.

"Shockingly, the Punjab government is mum over these reports. (AAP chief) Arvind Kejriwal needs to come clean on this issue. Government of India must step in as this involves Punjabi and national pride. If he was deplaned, Government of India must raise the issue with its German counterpart."

A Punjab government official confirmed that Mr Mann, who is a member of AAP, did not board the flight according to schedule.

The AAP media communications director Chander Suta Dogra insisted Mr Mann was a "little unwell" and chose to take a later flight.

The AAP insisted the chief minister was not deplaned at Frankfurt airport and said this was false propaganda by political rivals.

Mr Mann was visiting Germany from Sept 11 to 18 to seek investments and for strategic tie-ups in various sectors. He had meetings with representatives of leading companies like BMW and visited Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin.

Accusing the "dirty tricks departments" of the party's political opponents of spreading canards to defame Mr Mann, AAP leader Malwinder Singh Kang said: "They cannot digest that Mann is working hard to get investments into Punjab."

Mr Kejriwal on Tuesday defended Mr Mann and termed the allegations against him "fake".

"For the past six months, Bhagwant Mann has been doing a fabulous job. Punjab has got an honest chief minister," he said. "Those who oppose Mann are spreading fake information. Just because they can't find any negative point in his work, they spread fake information."

Indo-Asian News Service

"Disturbing media reports quoting fellow passengers say Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann was deplaned from a Lufthansa flight as he was too drunk to walk... These reports have embarrassed and shamed Punjabis all over the globe." - Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal

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