Did Prashant Kishor take a flight during lockdown? Centre asks airlines

Kishor had travelled to Guwahati from Kolkata days before the lockdown was enforced on May 24
The central government has gone into a tizzy after a media publication reported that political analyst Prashant Kishor manged to fly from Delhi to Kolkata in a cargo flight during the lockdown.

The government hasn’t been able to find any evidence till now.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs asked Civil Aviation ministry to find out details following which civil aviation regulator DGCA and aviation security agency BCAS began investigating the matter, people aware of the development said.

The report claimed that Kishor flew to Kolkata defying lockdown after being summoned by West Bengal CM. According to the report, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee summoned him to counter the BJP-ruled centre’s claim of the state government’s inability to handle the corona virus outbreak in the state.

Kishor’s organisation I-PAC, a political advocacy group is currently handling the re-election campaign of Trinamool Congress' for the 2021 West Bengal Assembly polls to aid Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's bid for a third consecutive term.

Prashant Kishor however categorically denied that he took a flight during the lockdown but wouldn’t comment on how he managed to reach Kolkata. “There is no truth in the report of me taking a cargo plane or for that matter any plane to fly from Delhi to Kolkata during the lockdown. If anyone claims to have information contrary to this, should put it out in the public domain,” Kishor told Business Standard.

He added that the last time he had boarded a flight was from the Delhi airport on March 19 - before the lockdown was enforced.

The political strategist, according to sources, is in Kolkata right now. Sources said that Kishor had travelled to Guwahati from Kolkata but didn’t reveal the timeline of his travel, if it was before or after the national lockdown.

The national lockdown, which was put in place on March 25 and will continue till May 3, does not allow inter-state travel of people through any mode of transportation.

DGCA has enquired from all airlines operating cargo flights between Delhi-Kolkata if anyone has carried Kishor. Airlines have categorically denied this and have informed the regulator that only essential supply and medicines were carried and there was no violation of any rules,” said an executive of an airline.

Similarly, authorities have also sought CCTV footage from airports, both at Delhi and Kolkata, but haven’t found anything to suggest that Kishor took a flight during the lockdown.

The Home Ministry on April 19 sent two teams to West Bengal saying that the situation is serious in Kolkata, Howrah, Medinipur East, 24 Parganas North Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Jalpaiguri districts in the state of West Bengal”.

However, this turned into a political clash when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed strong objections to the visit of central teams and wrote a letter to the Prime Minister calling the development “unilateral”.

DGCA in the first week of April came out with a set of procedure of operating cargo flights to ensure smooth supply of food items and medicines across the country. It however strictly instructed not to carry any passenger other than medical staff with special permission from Ministry of Civil Aviation. In fact, sources said that permission for operating charter aircraft was denied to airlines to ferry their crew who has been stuck away from their home due to the enforcement of the lockdown.

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