Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad courted controversy earlier on Thursday when he openly admitted to hitting an Air India staffer 25 times with slippers reportedly over seating arrangement. After the incident, the victim shot off a complaint letter to the airline alleging the minister used abusive language once he was told his request can’t be carried out. In the letter, the AI staff claimed, “R Gaikwad hit me, used bad words and not only broke my specs but humiliated me in front of the whole crew.” He further added: “God save our country if this is the culture and behavior of our MPs.” Gaikwad, in his defence, said the staffer misbehaved with him. “Haan maine usko maara tha, usne badtameezi ki thi (Yes, I hit him. He misbehaved with me).” The incident was reported on a Pune-Delhi flight after it landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport earlier today. Gaikwad represents Osmanabad constituency in Lok Sabha.
Reacting to the incident, Civil Aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju said such acts should be condemned. Close on the heels of Raju’s condemnation, Air India lodged an FIR against the minister for his high-handedness, and is reportedly also registering another one for forcibly holding the flight, delaying it for 40 minutes. Gaikwad In the meantime, Gaikwad has reportedly written to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahaja and Civil Aviation Minister Raju listing out problems plaguing the airline, as reported by news agency ANI. He also mentioned that Air India officials talked to him rudely when he complained to them about seating issues.
Despite two FIRs and criticisms for his action from several quarters, Sena said it would not condone the action of its MP. A party spokesperson said Gaikwad was not a person who would jump into such a thing and it was necessary to know what made him lose his temper. Party spokesperson Manisha Kayande told PTI that Shiv Sena does not subscribe to any such reaction by any of our party members, but added that the minister has accepted his actions. “Gaikwad is known as ‘Ravi Sir’ and is very popular in his constituency. He has worked a lot towards solving the water problems of his region,” she said, adding that the minister is not a person who would suddenly jump into such a thing. Senior Shiv Sena leaders, including party president Uddhav Thackeray, have not commented on the incident so far.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha expressed disappointment at the hihgh-handedness of the Sena minister. In an statement to news agency ANI, Sinha said, “Unruly behaviour and violence on our aviation network regrettable. Each such incident will be investigated and appropriate action taken.” Another development took place today when Delhi’s Airport Manager Harinder Singh said the Air India staff is agitated and hence they are blacklisting the MP. Singh was quoted by ANI as saying, “Two FIRs have been lodged against him, one by the victim Sukumar and one by Air India.”
The Congress also threatened to rake up the issue in Parliament demanding strict action against the minister. “This is unacceptable and some kind of action needs to be taken. It should be coming from his party as well as all the MPs when they speak in one voice in regards to privileges accorded to them. They should also be speaking in one voice to seek accountability when this privilege is misused. It is not only Shiv Sena’s responsibility, it is also the responsibility of the government which is in power. Aviation minister should take action because it is a government employee who has been attacked by this MP,” Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said.