Put on a ‘no-fly list’ by all major Indian airlines following his attack on an Air India staffer, Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad today addressed the Lok Sabha where he said he would “apologise to the Parliament but not to the Air India official” he had bragged of hitting with his “sandal 25 times”.
The minister, who was continuously cheered by his partymen in the Lower House, sought to play the victim, contending that he had been treated unfairly by the airlines.
Seeking the government’s intervention, the Sena MP said that the ban imposed on him must go, prompting a reply from Civil Aviation minister Ashok Gajpati Raju who said he wasn’t inclined to interfere. “Aircraft are machines where people fly and safety will not be compromised," Raju said, implying that Gaikwad's actions compromised passengers' safety.
Addressing a press conference later, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut threatened to boycott a meeting of the NDA, of which it is a part, if the airlines did not lift the ban. "Is our MP a terrorist?" he said, claiming that "rapists, criminals and separatists" were allowed on planes.
10 April tak agar masle ka hal nahi nikla to Shiv Sena NDA ki meeting me nahi jaayegi: Shiv Sena pic.twitter.com/BQfkkLj686— ANI (@ANI) April 6, 2017
Rapist,terrorist flight mein safar kar sakte hain lekin Gaikwad nahi. HM ne kaha hum pure mamle ko dekhenge: Shiv Sena on Gaikwad issue pic.twitter.com/ifRLBcLZEI— ANI (@ANI) April 6, 2017
"Rapists, terrorists and even Kashmiri separatists can travel in aeroplanes but not Gaikwad," Raut said, adding that the Home minister had assured of a proper investigation.
“We will soon expose who is responsible behind this whole episode,” Raut said, attacking airlines for allowing a safe passage to loan defaulters like Vijay Mallaya.
"Who does the CMD (top boss) of Air India think he is?" he then asked.
The Sena’s tactics to arm-twist the government appear to be working. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan today met all Sena MPs, the Civil Aviation minister and Home Minister Singh to seek a compromise. She later told reporters that MPs cannot always travel by road or train to attend Parliament, and suggested a solution was being worked out.
Earlier today, the Civil Aviation minister was gheraoed inside Parliament by the Sena members over his reply indicating his unwillingness to act in Gaikwad’s favour. Matters came to such a pass that senior ministers had to escort the minister out of Lok Sabha in a bid to protect him.
No misconduct took place inside the house: Anant Geete, Shiv Sena MP & Union Minister on Ravindra Gaikwad issue pic.twitter.com/J4DEzHeKCV— ANI (@ANI) April 6, 2017
Sena leader and Union minister Anant Geete charged at Raju when he said that the safety of passengers cannot be compromised. Geete, who was seated across the aisle from the Aviation minister, rushed towards him and started banging on a desk in anger. "No flights from Bombay will be able to take off," threatened Sena leaders.