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'Baseless': AAP on Claims That Bhagwant Mann Was Removed From Delhi-Germany Flight

While the AAP has flatly rejected the allegations against the Punjab chief minister and sought an apology from Opposition leaders who shared the claim, the origin of the allegations have now also come under question.

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New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has denied claims that the party’s Punjab chief minister, Bhagwant Mann, was deplaned from a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Delhi on Sunday afternoon for being inebriated, and some party leaders have demanded apologies from Opposition leaders who circulated the claim.

Reports alleging that Mann was too drunk to walk and thus had to be deplaned emerged on Sunday, September 18, after the flight in question was delayed by four hours. Due to this delay, Mann also missed the AAP’s Rashtriya Jan Pratinidhi Sammelan event in Delhi and had to join from Germany via video conferencing.

Opposition parties were quick to target the Punjab chief minister following the allegations. On Monday, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sukhbir Badal shared the claims on Twitter, saying that they “embarrassed and shamed Punjabis all over the globe”.

Badal also questioned the AAP’s supposed silence on the matter and sought the Union government’s intervention, saying that it involves “Punjabi and national pride”.

Similarly, the Congress shared the claims from the Twitter handle of its Delhi unit, calling the allegations a “big shame”.

Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab assembly, Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa even wrote a letter to Union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia seeking a formal inquiry into the matter.

“If it (the allegations against Mann) were true, it certainly is a bad reflection on the office Bhagwant Mann is holding. Therefore I would request you, kindly initiate an inquiry for verification of this news from the Lufthansa airlines as it involves not only an individual but the office he represents and such a conduct deserves to be deprecated,” Bajwa stated in the letter, according to PTI.

However, AAP’s director of media communications, Chander Suta Dogra said that Mann took a later flight because he was feeling unwell, according to a report in the Hindu.

The AAP, further, denied the claims, with the party’s chief spokesperson, Malvinder Singh Kang calling the allegations “baseless and bogus” and alleging that the Opposition leaders were spreading “propaganda” to “defame” the chief minister.

Mann was in Germany to seek foreign investment for his state and Kang claimed that the Opposition’s claims have come about because they cannot “digest the fact that he is working hard to get investments for the state,” according to news agency PTI.

Further, demanding an apology from Badal and Bajwa for their allegations, Kang also said that anyone in doubt can ask Lufthansa themselves as to what happened.

On Monday, the airline tweeted that the Frankfurt-Delhi flight had departed later than expected “due to a delayed inbound flight and an aircraft change.”

Further, it clarified that it could not divulge information about individual passengers “for data protection reasons”.

What is interesting is that both the SAD supremo and the Congress had referred to a report by online portal indianarrative.com in their tweets. The report cited an unnamed “Indian co-passenger” on the flight as saying that Mann was “not steady on his feet as he had imbibed excessive alcohol” and that the four-hour delay was caused by the flight crew having to remove Mann and his entourage’s luggage from the plane.

However, other social media users had been circulating a clipping of an article purporting to be by the German Times. These users included members of the Bharatiya Janata Party as well.

Online news portal the Quint fact-checked the article and found it to be a piece of satire, although the German Times has not issued a statement on the same. Further, the clipping being shared had the words, “This article is for satire @BeingBHK” in it, which is a handle which described itself as sharing satire stories. 

While the handle has since been deleted, tweets from it and others have been archived by the Quint and can be accessed from their report.

However, this satire article is identical to the one published by indianarrative.com and shared by the Congress and Badal, matching it word for word.

(With PTI inputs)