After RSS’ objection, Turkish national Ayci turns down Tata Group’s offer to lead Air India

The former Turkish Airlines CEO said he won’t be able to take up the post after reading about attempts "to colour my appointment with undesirable colours"

Ilker Ayci

A week after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) objected to Turkish national Ilker Ayci’s appointment as chief executive officer (CEO) of Tata’s Air India, it was confirmed by none other than Ayci himself that he won’t take up the position looking at the opposition.

Ayci, former chairman of Turkish Airlines, issued a statement on Tuesday (March 1) saying he will not take on the role of CEO following news reports that looked to connect his appointment to his previous political links to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

The Tata Group, last month, declared Ilker Ayci as the CEO of recently-acquired Air India, which the business conglomerate took over in January in a $2.4 billion equity and debt deal.

The RSS, however, asked the government to block Ayci’s appointment, because in 1994 he was an adviser to President Erdogan, who was then the mayor of Istanbul. Notably, India’s relations with Turkey have been strained ever since Erdogan openly backed Pakistan on Kashmir. Without Centre’s okay, a foreigner cannot be appointed the CEO of an Indian airline.

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Reuters quoted government sources to confirm that security agencies have flagged concerns about Ayci’s political links in Turkey.

Ayci issued a statement saying he told Tata Chairman N Chandrasekaran that he won’t be able to take up the post after reading about attempts “to colour my appointment with undesirable colours” by media in India.

Also read: What Tatas bring to the table in Air India acquisition

“As a business leader who has always prioritised professional credo … I have come to the conclusion that it would not be a feasible or an honorable decision to accept the position in the shadow of such narrative,” Ayci said.

The Tata Group will now have to restart its search for a CEO, who will have to make special efforts to turn around a loss-making venture.

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