EVEN as his party raised the issue in Parliament, Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad was grounded again on Tuesday after Air India refused to fly him, forcing him to take the Rajdhani Express to Delhi from Mumbai. Gaikwad had booked two tickets, from Mumbai to Delhi and Hyderabad to Delhi, but Air India cancelled them both, citing “passenger safety”. Gaikwad had to travel AC-II tier on the Rajdhani, instead of first class that MPs travel. Gaikwad’s name did not feature in the VIP list of passengers called ‘Higher Official Requisition Chart’, indicating it was a last-minute booking. As per rule, an MP booking a waitlisted ticket in the normal course gets reservation when the chart is made, which is what happened with Gaikwad. Even then, the reservation system automatically booked Gaikwad on an upper berth in A5 coach, after which he requested an ‘emergency quota’ accommodation and was given lower berth in A3 coach’s seats 13, 14 and 15, Railways sources said.
Leaving Mumbai Central at 5 pm, the train is scheduled to reach Delhi the following morning. Sources said Gaikwad, Lok Sabha MP from Osmanabad (Maharashtra), had two open tickets with AI, issued before the scrap aboard the flight from Pune to Delhi. He had slapped and, by his own claim, hit 60-year-old duty manager Sukumar Raman with his sandal when the official tried to persuade him to disembark. Gaikwad had held up the aircraft for more than 40 minutes.
Sources said the MP tried to book the flights through AI call centre. Confirming the development, an Air India spokesperson said, “Our stand remains the same. We have cancelled both his tickets…. We came to know who the passenger was and cancelled the ticket again.” The spokesperson added, “After the recent incident, our employees are agitated. Our airport employees have said that they won’t attend to him and due to security reasons, we have cancelled his tickets.”
AI officials said they are checking the database to ascertain how many tickets Gaikwad may have booked. “We cannot allow the MP to take the flight as we feel a security threat to our crew in allowing him to fly,” the spokesperson said. The Sena has now sought to move a notice for breach of Gaikwad’s privilege. The decision of the “Syndicate of Airlines” to debar a member from the “Air Travel Privilege” granted by the House was “unacceptable”, Sena parliamentary party leader Anandrao Adsul said in a letter to Lok Sabha Secretary General Anoop Mishra on Monday. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan acknowledged in the House on Tuesday that she was considering the matter. On Tuesday, the Delhi Police Crime Branch recorded statements of one more AI staffer — the 16th witness to the alleged ruckus caused by Gaikwad.