Ravindra Gaikwad, the Shiv Sena parliamentarian who has been banned by airlines after he thrashed an Air India manager last month, has provided a letter in which he “regrets” the incident – he was clearly told this was a pre-requisite for him to fly again. The letter is addressed to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and claims the restriction on flying is preventing the “effective discharge of my duties and responsibilities.” The MP said earlier today in parliament that he will not apologize to the airline employee he beat up, a stand wholly endorsed by his party.
This afternoon, the government indicated that it would intervene to end the ban as a denouement for the ugly drama that Mr Gaikwad has fronted; however, there would be no attempt to interfere with two criminal cases filed by Air India against the politician, said sources.
The Sena today flaunted its trademark belligerence with a show of force and a series of threats. First, Mr Gaikwad said in parliament that he had been provoked on March 23 by the Air India manager when he landed in Delhi and demanded an explanation for why he was made to fly economy despite a business class ticket. However, the flight operated as an all-economy journey. The manager, the politician said, taunted and insulted him and then shoved him. “I will apologize to parliament but not to him,” the MP said.
Sena MPs cheered him through his speech. Then, party leader and Union Minister Anant Geete charged at Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju who said that MP or not, the safety of passengers cannot be compromised. Mr Geete, seated across the aisle from the Aviation Minister, rushed towards him and started banging on a desk in anger. Sena men threatened, “No flights from Bombay will be able to take off.” Mr Raju was then led away in a huddle of ministers to ward off an attack.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan then met with all Sena MPs, the Civil Aviation Minister and Home Minister Rajnath Singh to seek a compromise. She later told reporters that MPs cannot always travel by road or train to attend parliament, and suggested a solution was being worked out.
It better, said the Sena, warning that unless the ban is ended, it will boycott Monday’s meeting of the national coalition led by the BJP, of which the regional party is a member. Sanjay Raut at a press conference, defending today’s action in parliament, asked “Is our MP a terrorist?” while claiming “rapists, criminals and separatists” are allowed on planes. “Who does the CMD (top boss) of Air India think he is?” he asked.
Here’s the letter by Ravindra Gaikwad to Aviation Minister:
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