Congress party leaders alleged that the Varanasi airport authorities had denied a chartered plane carrying their former national president Rahul Gandhi permission to land at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport on Monday night.
Congress leader and former MLA Ajay Rai said that the airport authorities did not grant permission as they were “under pressure” from the ruling party. Mr. Rai said the Prime Minister was anxious due to Mr. Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, and that President Droupadi Murmu’s visit to Varanasi had been used as an “excuse”.
“Rahul Gandhi’s flight was scheduled to arrive in Varanasi on Monday night. He was to offer prayers at Kashi Vishwanath temple and then go to Prayagraj, but the airport authorities did not allow his plane to land due to pressure from the government. The Prime Minister is anxious because of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra,” Mr. Rai, a five-term MLA, said at the airport.
He added that many party leaders from Varanasi and adjoining districts had reached the airport but, at the last minute, the plane was not allowed to land and it then returned to New Delhi.
The Varanasi airport authorities refuted the allegations and claimed the flight had been cancelled by the operator. A tweet from the official handle of the Varanasi Airport read: “The flight was cancelled by M/s AR Airways by sending email to AAI Varanasi Airport at 2116 hrs on 13 th Feb 2013. Please correct your statement as the flight was cancelled by the operator.”