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Shiv Sena MP hits Air India staffer with slippers: Party seeks explanation, FIR filed; airline mulls no-fly list

Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad On Thursday Assaulted An Elderly Air India Officer With His Slippers In A Brazen Burst Of Fury Over Being Unable To Travel Business Class Despite Having Insisted On Boarding An All-economy Flight.

News Nation Bureau | Edited By : Bindiya Bhatt | Updated on: 23 Mar 2017, 09:01:07 PM
Ravindra Gaikwad (File photo)

New Delhi:

Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad on Thursday assaulted an elderly Air India officer with his slippers in a brazen burst of fury over being unable to travel business class despite having insisted on boarding an all-economy flight.

Ravindra Gaikwad slapped and, by his own claim, hit 60-year-old duty manager Sukumar 25 times with his slippers when the official went to persuade him to disembark after he refused to alight, holding up the aircraft for over 40 minutes.

The national carrier has filed two FIRs against the MP, known for his strong-arm tactics, while Shiv Sena has sought an explanation from him. While one FIR relates to assault, the other is for holding up the aircraft.

Police said the officer, Sukumar, has been sent for medical examination and based on its report a case will be registered.

According to an Air India spokesperson, its duty manager at Delhi airport was hit with slippers several times by Gaikwad, who complained about having to travel economy - on an all-economy flight - even though he had a business class ticket.

ALSO READ | Who is Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad who punched 60-yr-old Air India Duty Manager

“The MP turned violent, broke the duty manager’s spectacles, tore his shirt, hit him with slippers 16-17 times,” Air India sources said.

Gaikwad had heated argument with AI officials at the time of boarding the plane in Pune for the national capital too over the flight not having business class seats.

According to the airline, Gaikwad was booked on an open ticket in business class with Air India which allows a passenger to take a flight on any date.

But Gaikwad insisted on taking the 7:35 AM AI 852 this morning from Pune to Delhi.

When the aircraft landed in Delhi, he refused to disembark despite attempts at persuading him to do so. Sukumar also tried to pacify the MP, who vociferously complained about the morning flight to Delhi from Pune not having business class.

ALSO READ | 'I hit him 25 times with my sandals, says Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad after assaulting Air India manager

Ravindra Gaikwad unapologetic: 

The MP, who was unapologetic about his actions, even boasting about it on national TV, claimed it was the officer’s threat to complain about it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that made him lose his cool.

“I first asked him to lower his voice as his blood pressure would shoot up. He then said he would complain to Modi. Then I slapped him. I hit him 25 times with my sandal.

“I am Shiv Sena MP, not of BJP, to tolerate abuses,” he said.

Gaikwad, bragging about the incident, said, ”I was about to throw him off the plane.”

He boastfully claimed he held up the plane for “full one hour” and did not allow the maintenance staff to clean the aircraft.

When asked whether he had any regret for his actions and if he would apologise, a defiant Gaikwad, who was once in news for having shoved down the throat an allegedly stale chapati to a fasting Muslim caterer while complaining about the quality of food served at the Maharashtra Sadan here, remained defiant.

Reactions to the incident:

Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande said, “Shiv Sena does not subscribe to any such reaction by any of our party members.

Civil Aviation Minister, Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who is a TDP MP from Andhra Pradesh, condemned the incident, saying physical assaults will not be “encouraged”.

“Physical assault won’t be encouraged and will always be condemned. (This) Should never have happened...attacking an airline staffer doesn’t make sense,” Raju said.

“Unruly behaviour and violence on our aviation network is regrettable. Each such incident will be investigated and appropriate action taken,” Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha tweeted.

In a message to employees, Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani said, “The management is with the employees, always.”

“He became very abusive and used foul language and abused me with all bad words and adjectives in Hindi,” Sukumar told police in his complaint.

Sena seeks explanation from MP:

Shiv Sena has sought an explanation from its Lok Sabha MP Ravindra Gaikwad.

“The party has sought an explanation from Gaikwad over the incident. The Sena does not condone violence of any kind,” Harshal Pradhan, media adviser to Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, said.

“We have also sought a version of the incident from the AirIndia (AI) staffer. The Sena has a workers’ union in Air India,” he said.

Ravindra Gaikwad no stranger to controversies:

Ravindra Gaikwad was in the eye of a row in 2014 for allegedly trying to force-feed a Muslim caterer during the fasting month of Ramzan over the quality of chapatis served at the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi.
He has various criminal charges against him which include voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servants from duty, criminal intimidation and rioting among others.

Leaders demand action against Sena MP:

Leaders across party lines reacted sharply to the incident where a Shiv Sena MP thrashed an Air India staffer and demanded strict penal action against the legislator, terming the incident as “sad and unfortunate”.

Although Shiv Sena supported its legislator, saying he is not the kind of person who loses his temper, the Congress threatened to rake up the issue in Parliament demanding strict action against Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad.

“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.

Gaikwad punched and hit a 60-year-old Air India Duty Manager with his slippers nearly 20 times and tore his shirt at IGI airport here today just because he could not travel business class in an all-economy flight.

Chaturvedi said elected representatives should not be allowed to get away with such behaviour.

“We will raise this issue in Parliament and not only this, lots of BJP MPs have been found guilty of misusing their power like this and using their position of authority to get away with this kind of behaviour. It needs to be condemned,” she said.

BJP MP Kirit Somaiya maintained that Members of Parliament need to behave in a more mature manner.

“We the MPs are more responsible persons and we have to behave in more mature manner. Anybody, particularly MPs like me has to take the responsibility and not beat anybody whether Air India crew or common man. If my colleague MP has done some error, I feel I can apologise on behalf of MPs who are sitting here in Delhi,” he said.

Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande however said that there should be a probe into the entire incident.

“Ravi Gaikwad is our MP and as far as we know him, he is not the kind of person, who loses his temper so soon. He is a good MP. If you go to his constituency, you will find people talk good things about him.

“He has worked for the people. But what happened here, what was the mistake of the airline official and what was the instigation which led to him taking such an extreme step, it should be probed,” she said.

Congress leader Oscar Fernandes said that whether it is a MP or a citizen, nobody has the right to beat anybody.

“We have great responsibility as Members of Parliament to support the staff who work in difficult conditions. I appeal to all people to treat our workers or public servants with all kindness and humility,” he said.

Air India is also examining whether to create a no-fly list for unruly passengers. No airline in India currently has such a list. Shaina NC of BJP said that the incident should be condemned in totality in one voice.

“This is not about Shiv Sena, Congress, BJP or any party, it is about a conduct of an elected representative especially when you are in a position of power.

“Assuming there is somebody who is not polite to you, the least one expects from elected representative is to show restraint in a situation where you have not just public watching but the entire aircraft wondering if this is going to be the conduct of a politician,” she said.

She wondered how will ever people have respect for the political class which chooses only VIP oneupmanship and one cannot justify this.

“When we talk about probity in public life, or certain kind of restrain, it stems from your leadership, and if you are MP, MLA, corporator, even a Panchayat Samiti member, you should show some kind of restrain to your position and your electorate,” she said.

NCP leader Majeed Memom termed the incident as “sad and distressing” where one finds people holding important positions and those are supposed to be leaders involved in such incidents.

“If such people’s misdemeanour is to the extent of turning violent for smallest provocation and reacting with physical assault, it is a matter of great disgrace. Their bosses should take serious action against erring legislators and law must take its own course.

“What was the provocation for raising hand on a government employee? These things are happening often in our country and needs to be seriously examined and we must have some kind of provision, ethically, legally or politically, whereby, if such incidents occur, political bosses will swing into action and punish the person appropriately,” he said.

Another NCP leader Rahul Narvekar termed the incident as that of “extreme highhandedness and unfortunate”.

“The MP has forgotten that he is here to serve the people and not to rule them. Strict action should be initiated against such erring public representatives. We demand that necessary penal action should be taken.

“He has not only done disservice to the people, but he has brought complete disrepute to the office of an MP, if this continues, people will lose faith in public representatives,” he said. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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First Published : 23 Mar 2017, 08:49:00 PM