Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) formally joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
It is difficult not to be sceptical over the sustainability of the euphoria in the stock market and the civil aviation ministry over the presumed revival of Jet Airways. If merely jettisoning its Chairman, and an induction of Rs 1,500 crore by public sector banks, sufficed to resurrect the carrier from its death-bed, it would be valid to ask if pressure could not have been brought to bear on Naresh Goyal before more than half the fleet had been grounded, and the public sector banks been “persuaded” into offering a bail-out long before the entire domestic civil aviation sector was jerked out of gear. One explanation is that with elections at hand the NDA government did not wish any puncturing of its bubble of a booming economy that would have resulted from the collapse of one of the largest private airlines. There is also some suspicion of an as yet unannounced plan to put the carrier on a more solid financial basis: the first-aid extended to the airline is not likely to have enduring effect. Without in any way endorsing Vijay Mallaya’s lament of his doomed Kingfisher being allowed to nosedive, it must be stressed that the situation will have to be carefully monitored over the next couple of months until a “new”, and hopefully more professional management facilitates the airline reclaiming the commanding heights it had earlier attained. Sadly, in all aspects of the civil aviation sector the political input cannot be ignored.
That is the legacy of Jagdish Tytler and Praful Patel to name a couple of Suresh Prabhu’s predecessors. A dynamic, professional and upright civil aviation minister is a luxury this country has not been lucky enough to boast about. Else the reaction from the ministry to the bail-out package would have been more circumspect. Like the thousands of worried employees of the airline, Jet’s patrons would be praying they are not being taken for an election ride. There is valid reason to extend every possible good wish to the managers to try and get at least half the planes airborne again in the next six weeks so that the carrier extricates itself from its present crisis, and would-be investors are not driven away by fears of committing themselves to a dud. The government should not fight shy of trying to get established international players involved ~ now that the alleged villain of the piece has been removed from the equation.
Whether the Tatas can be persuaded to revive an interest in Jet is a tricky query, they are already involved in two other carriers. Yet management takeovers apart, there are other complications that need sorting out. High fuel prices, limited space at terminals that result in fewer flights, “forced” services on non-remunerative routes, etc. It is all very well for politicians to dream of folk in hawai chappals using the airways, and not bothering about who will pay for such social objectives.