Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad on Thursday wrote to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapthi Raju, conveying “regrets” over the incident where he hit an Air India staffer with slippers.
The MP also requested the Civil Aviation Minister to lift the restrictions on his air travel as it was affecting the discharge of his responsibilities and duties as an MP.
Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad conveys regret to Civil Aviation Min Ashok Gajapathi Raju, requests to lift fly ban imposed on him pic.twitter.com/L933Cn2HKq— ANI (@ANI_news) April 6, 2017
Earlier, a belligerent Shiv Sena on Thursday held out the threat of disrupting Air India’s operations in Maharashtra and boycotting an NDA meet while its MPs forced repeated adjournment of the Lok Sabha over its demand for revocation of the flying ban on its MP Ravindra Gaikwad.
Gaikwad, who attended the proceedings for the first time since the incident played the victim, insisting he had only retaliated against provocation.
As the ruling NDA ally made an all-out attempt to get the ban lifted, a string of meetings followed to break the impasse, with first signs of a possible resolution emerging when Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured the House that discussions will be held with the stakeholders to find an “amicable solution” at the earliest.
The day started with combative Shiv Sena MPs creating an uproar in the Lok Sabha where they surrounded Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju after the latter refused to concede their demand for lifting the ban.
The House watched in shock as Sena MPs banged Raju’s bench in unbridled fury and refused to allow him to leave. Among those who joined in creating the ruckus was the lone Sena minister in the union cabinet Anant Geete.
Rajnath Singh had to intervene to placate the agitated Sena members and usher Raju out.
“Aircraft is a machine where people fly. Safety is important. Safety cannot be compromised,” Raju had earlier said, while responding to the Shiv Sena’s demand. His response left the Sena MPs fuming.
Before Raju spoke, Geete too joined his colleagues in condemning the action against Gaikwad and appeared to be taking a dig at the government when he said it is a people’s government but the “one-sided decision” was “shameful and tragic”.
Gaikwad, the MP from Maharashtra’s Osmanabad, read out a statement in the House which was a mix of defiance and an attempt at reconciliation. However, all the while he played the victim card as he sought “justice” for himself.
Having repeatedly bragged about how he beat up the elderly Air India staffer R Sukumar, attempted to throw him off the stationary aircraft on landing at Delhi airport and held up the plane for an hour, Gaikwad on Thursday claimed he had only pushed him, that too after being provoked.
The Sena MP claimed that an official, when asked about his identity, told him that he was “Air India ka baap” (Air India’s father) and taunted him by asking “are you Narendra Modi”, when he said he was a Lok Sabha MP.
Gaikwad claimed he just pushed the official only after he was pushed around. Air India’s charge that he fought with its officials over a seat was “wrong”, he said, adding that airline officials got angry with him when he demanded a complaint book.
He also lashed out at Air India and other airlines for barring him from flying. Many members were seen smiling when he said he has been a teacher and humility is his nature. He said he had the video clippings of the incident which “will prove my case.”
Gaikwad also cited the comments of an Air India air hostess, claiming she had blamed the airline official for the incident.
Gaikwad struck a somewhat conciliatory note when he tendered an apology to Parliament but insisted he owed no apology to the airline officials.
Soon after, Shiv Sena leaders held a press conference where they declared the party would not attend a proposed meeting of the ruling NDA on April 10 if the ban was not lifted by then.
“If separatists, rapists and terrorists are allowed to travel on flights then why not an MP. There are so many MPs, who are involved in agitation. Are you (the airlines) going to impose a travel ban on them as well? “We will not attend the NDA meeting on April 10 if the travel ban on Gaikwad is not revoked,” Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said.
Seeking to add more weight to the threat, he told journalists it is an “instruction from party chief Uddhav Thackeray”.
Raut denounced registration of an FIR against Gaikwad under section 308 of IPC related to attempt to murder.
“He should have been booked for assaulting (the Air India Officer) with a chappal. Instead, he has been booked for attempt to murder,” Raut said.
After the reported threat by Shiv Sena to stall Air India’s operations at Mumbai and Pune airports, the national carrier said it was stepping up the security of its staff there.
“We are enhancing security of our staff deployed at Mumbai and Pune Airport in the wake of threat to ground flight operations at these aerodromes,” an Air India source said.
Some Air India employees’ unions in Mumbai and Pune are affiliated to Shiv Sena’s trade union Bharatiya Kamgar Sangh.
Amid tough posturing by Shiv Sena and following Rajnath Singh’s assurance about efforts to find an amicable solution to the imbroglio, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan held a meeting with MPs of Shiv Sena and TDP, to which Raju belongs.
The Sena and TDP MPs also held talks after their meeting with Mahajan, who too pitched for the matter to be resolved amicably.