Air India has, once again, refused to fly Ravindra Gaikwad, a Shiv Sena parliamentarian, and has cancelled his tickets between Mumbai and Delhi for later this month. Mr Gaikwad assaulted an Air India manager on March 23 and yesterday told the Lok Sabha that while he apologises to parliament if he has “hurt its image” with his actions, he will not apologise to the 60-year-old man he assaulted.
A union of Air India employees said the airline must boycott the politician till he delivers an “unconditional apology” and commits in writing to following norms for “cabin safety and public behavior.”
However, the Sena said that Mr Gaikwad has made no new attempt to book Air India tickets, and the airline is guilty of a smear campaign against him.
Ravindra Gaikwad’s Air India ticket which was cancelled by the airlines today.
To get around a ban imposed on him by all airlines, Mr Gaikwad yesterday said in a note that he “regrets the unfortunate incident.” The letter was given to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who had to be rushed out of the Lok Sabha yesterday to protect him from Sena minister Anant Geete who tore towards him in a fit of rage.
Mr Raju, after hearing Mr Gaikwad’s defense in parliament, said that whether or not an MP was involved, the safety of passengers could not be compromised – a firm rebuke to the Sena leader, whose party could not countenance that comment and responded characteristically with a string of threats which included warning that flights would not be able to take off from Mumbai. A Sena spokespersonasked, “Who does the CMD (top boss) of Air India think he is?”
Mr Gaikwad faces two criminal cases by the national carrier. Outlining his version of events in parliament, he claimed that the manager he beat with his slipper “25 times” – a feat he bragged off on the day of the assault – had provoked him by insulting MPs in general and him in particular by asking “Who are you? Narendra Modi?” The Sena MP claimed he was shoved first, after which he let fly.
The Sena has said that it has a video to prove this, though it has mysteriously not released the footage. The only video shared so far of the assault shows Air India employees pleading with Mr Gaikwad to abort the beating he was inflicting.
Mr Gaikwad has accused Air India of poor service – he says his business class ticket from Pune to Delhi was not honoured. Except the flight operated as an all-economy journey. The MP says he had not been informed of this; the airline says he was. When the flight landed, Mr Gaikwad refused to disembark. A manager boarded the plane to reason with him, after which the lashing erupted.