Karnataka minister flaunts luxury private jet travel with CM Siddaramaiah as state reels under drought

Housing Minister Zameer Ahmed's post on X — that has since been deleted — flaunting the luxurious private jet raised questions of propriety.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Dec 22, 2023 | 6:00 PMUpdatedDec 22, 2023 | 6:10 PM

CM Siddaramaiah, Revenue minister Krishna Byregowda and Housing Minister Zameer Ahmed Khan among other inside the luxurious private jet

Karnataka Cabinet Minister for Housing, Waqf and Minority Affairs BZ Zameer Ahmed Khan’s now-deleted social media post flaunting his travel on a luxurious special private jet with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Revenue Minister Krishna Byre Gowda and a few others has raised questions of propriety.

A video of Khan flaunting the visibly luxurious and expensive jet, ironically, was shot when the delegation headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was returning from Delhi where they highlighted the distress caused due to drought in the state.

The ministers were returning to Bengaluru from New Delhi after seeking assistance, and funds from National Disaster Response Funds (NDRF) from the Union government. They had asked for the release of drought relief funds amounting to ₹18,177 crore for Karnataka citing excessive crop damage and economic distress to farmers.

Chamrajpet MLA and Housing Minister Zameer Ahmed Khan

Chamrajpet MLA and Housing Minister Zameer Ahmed Khan

Opposition parties and citizens alike lashed out at the government for flaunting luxury when the state was reeling under drought.

The backlash came after Khan, a five-time Chamrajpet MLA, put up a 34-second video showing him pacing in slow motion inside a luxury private jet, with the song “Sulthana” from the 2022 Kannada film KGF Chapter 2 playing in the background.

The now-deleted video — posted on X (formerly Twitter) then showed others like Siddaramaiah and Krisha Byre Gowda seated.

Zameer Ahmed posted on X: “Happy moments of traveling from Delhi to Bangalore with our proud leader, Chief Minister @siddaramaiah.”

Also read: Karnataka awaits Union govt panel decision on drought relief

The BJP broadside

The BJP was quick to pounce on the perceived irony of the Congress leaders’ show of opulence while returning from a trip to ask for Central assistance.

Saffron party leaders termed Zameer Ahmed Khan’s video post an obnoxious display of flaunting the fortunes and luxurious lifestyles of Congress leaders amid the poor condition of the state.

Siddaramaiah & Zameer Ahmed Khan

Siddaramaiah and Zameer Ahmed Khan

Karnataka BJP chief BY Vijayendra stated: “If bigotry had a face, @INCKarnataka govt would be the Best of it! At a time, when whole of Karnataka is reeling under severe drought, farmers staring at the worst of crisis with loss of crops & no rainfall & hardly any development works taking off, all that @CMofKarnataka & his team of cabinet ministers could think of is flaunting their Rich Fortunes & Luxury Lifestyles over the poor damsels of the State! [sic]”

He added: “By the way, they were traveling in this luxurious aircraft to seek funds for drought relief works! What a crude mockery of our distress! Splurging the Tax payers money comes so easy for @INCIndia ministers! [sic]”

Vijayendra also posted on X in Kannada, comparing Siddaramaiah to the Roman Emperor Nero, who — as legend has it — was playing the fiddle when Rome was on fire.

Another photo shot inside the private jet

Another photo shot inside the private jet

Karnataka BJP spokesperson Mahesh G told South First that politicians should be role models.

“Being in responsible positions, one should mind their actions. Governance is not an easy task. It is not a joyride,” he said.

“Siddaramaiah calls himself a socialist — a samajwadi — but in his actions, he appears to be majawadi (someone who enjoys the finer things in life),” he added.

“A socialist is a simple person. Does he have to flaunt a Hublot watch, which costs ₹1.5 crore? This is sheer hypocrisy,” Mahesh G told South First.

Also read: Karnataka announces interim relief for drought-hit farmers

The Congress counter

Following the BJP attack, Congress leaders went into damage-control mode and sought to downplay the matter.

Zameer Ahmed Khan told South First: “The video I posted was from a special flight we had taken from New Delhi to Bengaluru. We were told that all the regular flights were full and there were no tickets available. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had to attend a program in Bengaluru without missing it. So a special aircraft was arranged for all of us. What was wrong with that?”

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah asked reporters: “How does Narendra Modi travel? Ask this question to the BJP. Ask the BJP members which aircraft Modi uses for his travel; he travels alone in those aircraft. Why does he travel alone? Direct this question to them (BJP).”

Minister of Transport Ramalinga Reddy said that ministers using passenger airlines or private jets are up to them.

“They use chartered flights to save time,” he said, noting, “Delhi to Bengaluru is a 2.5-hour flight.”

Reddy then chose to turn the spotlight on the BJP, which is in power at the Centre.

“First of all, 234 out of 236 taluks [in Karnataka have been declared drought-hit. The Central government has not released a single rupee. Even after our chief minister, revenue minister, and other ministers have requested the Centre to release the money, it was not released the funds,” he alleged while talking to reporters.

“BJP leaders in Karnataka are closer to the prime minister, but they don’t have the guts to ask him to release funds, and instead make unwanted comments,” he added.