Ruling out the possibility of joining the Third Front, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief and Union minister for civil aviation Chaudhary Ajit Singh, who has five sitting MPs, said his party would continue to support the Congress.
In an interview with dna’s Rohinee Singh, Ajit Singh blames Mulayam Singh and his party for the recent riots in Muzaffarnagar.
Who is to be blamed for the communal disharmony in Uttar Pradesh?
Mulayam Singh and his party’s government has been creating communal unrest in the state. Even in the Durga Shakti Nagpal case, an honest officer who was trying to fight the sand mafia, was accused of demolishing a mosque wall. What happened in Muzaffarnagar was an issue of sexual assault on a girl, which was given a communal colour. During the riots, the district remained without a district magistrate and the police superintendent for 24 hours. The Samajwadi Party planned and the BJP took advantage of the situation.
Both Jats and Muslims have been voting for the RLD. Both have been victimised in the recent Muzaffarnagar riots. Will it affect your vote bank?
My relationship with the Jats and Muslims is three generations old. Such clashes are not going to make it weak. The two communities have always been together and will continue to be together in future.
I and my party colleagues have been in constant touch with them. All those who have been displaced will be brought back.
After the Jet-Etihad deal, are you looking at reviewing the 5/20 rule for international flying?
The cabinet decided to make it mandatory for an Indian airline to complete five years and have a fleet of at least 20 aircraft to start international flying.
Etihad doesn’t have five years experience but they have been permitted to fly from India.
International operators who fly in India need not necessarily have five years experience.
I plan to take the 5/20 rule for a cabinet review. This will encourage operators to enter the sector.
Three days back you said Air India would be privatised. Are you backtracking today?
I am not backing out from what I have said. I have been misquoted. I firmly believe in privatising the service sector.
I don’t think the government can be in the service delivery sector. Over the years, all government hotels have been privatised. In future, the government will have to look at privatisation with political consensus and keep the public interest in mind.
But the UPA-II has just six more months to go. It is too little a time to privatise Air India. But I am amused at the way senior leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad and T Raju say this is intolerable. If these leaders come to power, for them too privatisation will be the only option.
Regional airlines were proposed to pull the sector out of losses and ensure better regional connectivity. By far only one operator has been given the clearance. It took them one-and-a-half years to seek clearances. Will it not discourage players from entering the market?
What happened with Air Costa [Air Costa has recently got permission to fly in the southern region] was because of some DGCA officials in Chennai who delayed the process for individual benefits.
But that has been taken care of.
We want more operators in the regional sectors. The ministry has asked the DGCA to expedite the licencing process.
How else can we promote regional airlines?
I have met the stakeholders of all states recently. States have agreed in principle to give airports a tax waiver, subsidise water and electricity and other safety clearances to make airlines and airports commercially viable.
Will you go with an alliance with the UPA in the 2014 elections or are you looking at the Third Front as an alternative?
There is no question of going with the Third Front. We will continue to be a part of the UPA in 2014. Our alliance with the Congress has been strong and we will go to polls with them. The Third Front is not a strong alternative in the Indian political system.