After days of denial, Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad who assaulted an Air India official by thrashing him 25 times with his slipper and threatening to throw him off a plane, finally apologised to the Lok Sabha on Thursday. However, he refused to say 'sorry' to Air India.
It took the politician over two weeks to express remorse.
Gaikwad's apology, a letter, was just a sentence. "I apologise to Parliament if I've caused any hurt, but not to the Air India official," he said in Parliament. However, he continued defending himself. "The AI staff abused me and pulled me by my collar. The AI staff who misbehaved with me is roaming scot-free. But here I am with curbs from all airlines," he added.
The letter was given to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who then had to be rushed out of the Lok Sabha to protect him from Sena minister Anant Geete who tore towards him in a fit of rage.
Geete was escorted out by BJP's SS Ahluwalia, as other lawmakers rushed to form a protective shield around Raju. While leaving, Geete was heard screaming, "If ban continues, we will not allow aircrafts to take off from Mumbai."
However, despite the Shiv Sena MP's apology to the Parliament, Air India refused to relent. The airline cancelled his tickets between Mumbai and Delhi for later this month.
Air India cancelled Gaikwad's Delhi-Mumbai ticket booked for April 17 and Mumbai-Delhi ticket for April 24. "Gaikwad booked the ticket from Air India's website at around 5 am today. His ticket was immediately cancelled," An Air India spokesperson said.
Here's a look at the series of events that has happened since the Shiv Sena MP attacked the Air India staff.
23 March: Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad punched and hit a 60-year-old Air India Duty Manager with his slippers nearly 25 times and tore his shirt at IGI airport. All this because he could not travel business class in an all-economy flight. Later, in a video, the MP even boasted about it. "I slapped him. I hit him 25 times with my sandal," he said. "I am Shiv Sena member, not of BJP, to entertain abuses (hurled at me)," he added. He maintained that he "will not apologise".
24 March: The airline filed two police cases against the MP for physical assault and for delaying a flight. The jet reportedly could not take off for its next destination because the politician refused to exit. The MP, while refusing to apologise to Air India and demanding one instead, lodged a counter-complaint with police, alleging he was manhandled at the airport.
25 March: Air India and six private airlines banned Gaikwad from booking on their flights.
28 March: MP Gaikwad tried booking a flight again on Air India, and it was once again cancelled by the airline.
29 March: After being denied permission, twice, to fly on an Air India flight for his violent ways, the Shiv Sena MP finally boarded the Rajdhani Express to proceed to Delhi from Mumbai.
30 March: Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut dubbed the national carrier a 'mafia goon' over their decision to ban Gaikwad. "Company's behaviour is that of mafia goons, their dictatorship will not last long," Raut told media. "They should not have banned him, terrorist, underworld dons, and corrupt people can travel freely so,why is a minister being banned, even before the judgment," he said.
6 April: After the uproar in Parliament, Air India asked for increased security at all airports in Maharashtra.
All this while, Shiv Sena has unsurprisingly backed its MP while questioning the airlines for grounding him without an enquiry. This despite Gaikwad admitting on record that he assaulted the staffer.
Meanwhile, in a letter to AI chairman, Air India's Cabin Crew Association (AICCA) said that it will be a shame if Gaikwad is allowed to resume flying. "We Do NOT wish to be flying such a person....It would also crush the morale of all employees," the association said in a letter to AI chairman.
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