Will apologise to Parliament, but not Air India official, says Shiv Sena MP

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New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, who was banned from flying after he assaulted an Air India official with his footwear, said on Thursday that he had been “abused and manhandled” by the Air India staffer last month. He offered to apologise for his behaviour in Parliament but not to the 60-year-old flight official.

Gaikwad demanded that the flying ban on him should be lifted. He got support from other opposition parties.

Gaikwad, who told TV channels after the March 23 incident that he beat the Air India official with his sandal “25 times”, said in the House that on the day of the incident he was made to travel in economy class despite having a business class ticket.

He said after the Pune-Delhi flight landed in the national capital, he asked for the complaint register.

“After 45 minutes, an officer came. I talked to him calmly, but he asked who are you. I asked him who are you, he said he is the ‘father of Air India’. When I said that I was a politician, one of them said ‘But you are not Narendra Modi. Are you?'” said the Shiv Sena MP, giving his version of the incident.

The MP alleged that the airline staff held him by the collar after which he pushed him.

“Even the Air hostess has given a statement that the incident happened because of the airline staff’s misbehaviour. There is a video as well.”

“I am staring at a ban across all airlines,” Gaikwad said and claimed that the charges against him are “unfounded” and should be taken back.

“I have been charged under IPC 308, which is for ‘attempt to murder’. Was I holding any weapon?.. Is this justice,” he added.

“If the dignity of Parliament has been hurt, I apologise to the Parliament, but not to the officer,” he said.

Gaikwad had assaulted duty manager R. Sukumar for not being given a business class seat on an all-economy flight, and was slapped with a flight ban across all airlines.

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju reiterated that the ban was not for a Member of Parliament, but for a passenger and safety was most important in flights. This led to a protest by Shiv Sena members, and the House was adjourned twice.

Gaikawad also said that different tickets were booked in his name by other people later, adding that the Aadhaar or other identity cards should be made mandatory for booking an airline ticket.

“Probe the whole incident, see who is guilty, and lift the flying ban on me,” he urged.

The MP was backed by Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete who questioned how a charge of attempt to murder can be slapped against the MP.

“Get the incident probed. But without a probe the punishment was given. How can this government of Narendra Modi, the government of people, put restrictions on an MP without knowing the truth?” Geete asked.

The Civil Aviation Minister however said safety was paramount in a flight.

“There is a process of law and it will take its own course. When I made submission to the House (earlier), I said it is not an MP, but a passenger. I have nothing to add here,” Raju said.

“If you want to defuse the situation you can, if you want to aggravate the situation, you can. In machines where people fly, safety is important and safety will not be compromised,” the Minister said.

Dissatisfied with his reply, members from Shiv Sena protested.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House twice amid the ruckus.

–IANS

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