Ilker Ayci, the Turkish national who was appointed by the Tatas to lead Air India as its CEO, has refused the job, according to a statement released by him. He said that certain sections of the Indian media were trying to paint his appointment with "undesireable colours".
"...I have come to the conclusion that it would not be a feasible or honourable decision to accept the position in the shadow of such narrative", he said.
After a successful bid for Air India last year from the government, the airline returned to the Tata Group's fold after nearly 70 years, with the group assuming control of the airline late-January. On February 14 this year, the airline announced Ayci as its pick to lead it, with the appointment coming into effect starting April 1.
"This appointment is subject to requisite regulatory approvals", the Tatas' press release announcing his appointment.
For starters, his Turkish nationality and close proximity to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan rose eyebrows. Turkey's relationship with India has not been cordial, as it has sided with Pakistan, whenever matters of bilateral disputes between the two countries were raised on international forums.
According to digital news website The Morning Context, Ayci was close to Erdogan since 1994 as his advisor when the latter was the Mayor of Istanbul. In 2015 till January this year, Ayci became the Chairman of Turkish Airlines with zero industry experience, a year after Erdogan became the President of Turkey. He is credited with Turkish Airlines' impressive performance under him, even keeping the airline afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic as global airlines struggled due to travel restrictions.
President Erdogan also served a witness to Ayci's wedding in 2018. But his relations with the staff of the airline were reported to be stormy following mass sackings and several legal cases challenging his decisions.
According to wire-service the Press Trust of India, Ayci would have been subjected to a thorough background check by the Ministry of Home Affairs, as is the case of all foreign national being appointed to positions of top responsibility at any Indian company.
However, since he is a Turkish national, the ministry would take help from India's external intelligence service, the Research and Analysis Wing.
His appointment faced opposition locally too. The Rashtriya Swasyamsevak Sangh (RSS)-associated trade body, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, opposed his appointment. The Manch's co-convener told The Hindu that they were opposing his appointment citing "national security".
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?