The BJP on Sunday accused the UPA government of trying to shut down Air India to benefit private operators.

BJP general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy sought an explanation from the Prime Minister.

Addressing a press conference, Mr. Rudy wanted to know whether the government was aiming to shut down the national carrier by blaming pilots for the mess, which he feared, would unravel as a much bigger scam than the CWG and 2G scams.

He squarely blamed the government for the passengers' plight pointing out that the striking pilots were willing to come forward for a negotiated settlement which the Air India management had spurned.

Stressing that the losses of the public carrier had mounted due to mismanagement, the BJP leader contended that the Managing Director of Air India directly reported to the Prime Minister's Office and not to either the Civil Aviation Minister or the departmental secretary.

In such a situation, the Prime Minister should answer categorically whether the government intended to shut down Air India, Mr. Rudy said. There was no such thing as a partial lockout or shutdown.

He warned that the 800 striking pilots would land a job in the ever-expanding aviation sector where the demand was for over 1,000 commanders and senior first officers in the private sector. The strike was already benefiting the private players, who had raised ticket prices by 10 to 20 per cent. On certain routes they had doubled the prices.

Mr. Rudy suspected the government of plotting to shut down the carrier to cover up its mess — right from merging Indian Airlines with Air India and selling off routes with high load factors to private companies and selling off about 112 acres for over Rs. 1 lakh crore.

Taking exception to Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi's description of pilots as “12th pass” persons, Mr. Rudy wondered whether Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi approved of the comment and viewed the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in the same light.

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