New Delhi, Dec 3 (IANS) Seeking to counter charges levelled against her by the Madhya Pradesh government, tennis star Sania Mirza on Thursday issued a statement justifying the need for a chartered plane to attend the central Indian state’s annual sports awards ceremony. Reports emerged earlier this week that the 29-year-old had asked for a chartered plane and a make-up kit worth Rs.75,000 to attend the function on Saturday which was postponed to Tuesday. When the demands were heard, state Sports Minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia declined to meet them and instead brought in chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand as the chief guest for the event. Sania responded to the controversy through her managing agency KWAN. 

“We had been directly dealing with the concerned persons in order to facilitate Sania Mirza’s visit for the event in which she was very keen to participate. It was to take place in Bhopal on November 28 and we are well acquainted with the negotiations that were under way,” KWAN chief operating officer (COO) Indranil Blah said in a statement. The statement refuted the claims she asked for “Rs.5 lakh” to attend the function but admitted the star did demand a private jet. “There was never any demand for an amount of Rs.5 lakh on this occasion made by the agency, as suggested by the media reports,” said Blah. “As Sania Mirza was already committed to participate in an event in Goa on November 29, and since the commercial flights were taking her seven hours to fly from Bhopal to Goa, it was practically impossible for her to be physically present for both these events unless she was accorded the facility of a private jet for flying from Bhopal to Goa.” 

“Hence, the request for a private jet had to be made for just the outgoing flight from Bhopal to ensure that Sania Mirza could honour her commitment in Goa – a commitment that had been made more than a month ago,” Blah added. The World No.1 women’s doubles player is currently in Kobe, Japan, playing in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL). “The practical impossibility of getting a popular celebrity to be present in two different corners of the country within a short span of time sometimes has to be tackled in this unusual manner and we are disappointed at the distasteful, damaging comments being floated against Sania Mirza by certain sections,” said Blah. “It is particularly distressing for the agency as well as our client since we were given the impression by the negotiating official from Madhya Pradesh that as it was practically impossible for Sania Mirza to attend the event on November 28, another date would be mutually decided upon for the same event when our client had more time available.”

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