New Delhi: As Naresh Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal stepped down from Jet Airways, leaving the once market leader in disarray and staff in uncertainty and gloom, it's time to rewind to an era when Jet Airways was synonymous with gravity-defying success. The year was 2004 when Sam Pitroda joined the Jet Airways board. Soon it left the government's alliance partners up in arms. The Left cried conflict of interest, but that didn't undo the appointment. 

Why Sam Pitroda's appointment was significant?

Sam Pitroda was an advisor to the government of India on infrastructure at that time. But he joined the board of a leading airline that could have resulted in conflict of interest. Then CPI(M) politburo member MK Pandhe raised the matter vociferously. In fact, other Left parties, like the CPI, RSP and Forward Block too cried foul. What irked the Left was that Sam Pitroda, a Gandhi loyalist, who was then a part of Jet Airways board, was advising the then Prime Minister of India on Telecom. He, incidentally, was also part of the Sonia Gandhi-led all-powerful National Advisory Council (NAC) that many believe, yielded more power than the government of the day itself. Yet, Pitroda didn't step down. 

The coincidental rise of Jet Airways

In 1993, Jet Airways started operating flights with 9W321 from Bombay to Ahmedabad. A new kid in the market, it started off simple with just four aircraft, all Boeing 737-300. Business slowly picked up and in 1999, Jet Airways announced an order worth approximately $550 million for ten Boeing 737-800 aircraft. But it was only on December 28, 2004, Jet Airways got listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange and became a public company. The good time was about to begin. Towards the end of 2004, the government had announced that privately-owned scheduled carriers meeting certain criteria could operate in all countries apart from those in the Middle East. Jet Airways was an immediate beneficiary apart from Sahara. Early next year in January 2005, the ministry of civil aviation gave granted rights to the airline to operate services to London's Heathrow. By January 2006, Jet Airways announced its intention to acquire Air Sahara for $ 500 million. And eventually, by April 16, 2007, Air Sahara was renamed as JetLite under a renegotiated deal. With this, Jet also started to dominate the economy market. Jet Airways became the leader of Indian aviation and a success story everyone wanted to be a part of. 

Politics of it

In January 2005, then CPI(M) politburo member MK Pandhe raised a storm over what he claimed is a clear case of conflict of interest. Pitroda, in spite of being in the thick of things in policy decisions, was part of a private airline is a historical fact. Another fact is, soon after his joining the board, the airline's fortune sparkled. While MyNation is not in any way insinuating anything, but in view of Pandhe's objection, the matter deserves attention. When MyNation contacted CPI(M) politburo member Md Selim, he said, "Yes, when our people were there (in the transport committee), we did raise the matter." MyNation tried to call Sam Pitroda, he said, "Will not have time. I was there long long time ago just for a year. I have nothing to say." MyNation has also reached out to Jet Airways for comment, but efforts were in vain.