Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad on Thursday, April 6, wrote a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju expressing regret over the ugly spat with an Air India manager on a plane and requesting the minister to lift the ban that has been imposed on him since it is "affecting the effective discharge of my duties and responsibilites."
"It would have been no one's intention to have let the situation aggravate to the level that it eventually did. While the ongoing investigation will bring our the factual sequence of events to fix responsibility, this incident may kindly not be seen as a reason for the likely recurrence of such an event in future also," Gaikwad said in the letter.
Earlier reports suggested that the ban on Gaikwad by various airlines would be lifted on Thursday (April 6) evening with the government expected to persuade the Air India authorities. The Shiv Sena has also put pressure on the government saying that they would not attend the NDA meeting if the matter is not resolved by Monday, April 10.
Security at the airports in Pune and Mumbai have been increased following the Shiv Sena's threat.
The decision was taken after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh held talks with Shiv Sena MP Anand Geete and Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Thursday. Raju was gheraoed by the Sena MPs inside the Lok Sabha earlier in the day.
Gaikwad had said last month that he had hit a senior staff member of Air India "25 times" with his slippers on charges that he had misbehaved with the Sena MP. The airline refused to fly him following the incident and also cancelled four of his tickets with the carrier. Air India also filed a couple of criminal complaints against Gaikwad. Five other airlines also banned on the parliamentarian later. Meanwhile, SpiceJet was quoted by CNN-News18 as saying that they would lift the ban on Gaikwad only if he extended an apology.
Gaikwad's speech in Parliament:
Gaikwad, in a long speech in Parliament on Thursday, said he would apologise to parliament but not to the Air India manager whom he assaulted.
"I apologise for my behaviour, but I am not apologetic to the airline official who abused and manhandled me, and spoke in a derogatory manner about parliamentarians and the prime minister. This behaviour was unacceptable... It was only after he insulted the PM and the parliament that I got upset and hit him. Only that clip was shown to the public," Gaikwad said referring to a video that was produced as evidence against him. The Sena has claimed that it has another video which proves that Gaikwad was shown in a negative light. However, the party has not yet shared the video footage.
Gaikwad also said that the media highlighted a lop-sided version of the entire incident. According to the manager who was assaulted, the Sena MP refused to leave the flight for almost an hour forcing over 100 passengers to wait for their next flight. Gaikwad wanted to know why he was flying in the economy class despite having booked a seat in the business class. When the airline officials explained that the aircraft operated as an economy-only flight, the MP lost his cool.
However, Gaikwad has presented a different version. He said that he had "peacefully" asked for a complaints book so that he could jot down his objections, but was treated with disrespect and then "grabbed by the collar." According to the MP, the Air India manager provoked him with insults like "Who do you think you are? Narendra Modi?"
Sena's Sanjay Raut defends Gaikwad:
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Thursday defended Gaikwad and questioned the "aukaat (stature)" of the Air India chief, who imposed a no-fly ban on Gaikwad after he allegedly assaulted the manager of the airline. Following the incident, several majore airlines banned the Sena MP from flying in their carriers.
"Who is the Air India chairman before us? He is just a government servant. He should stay in his limits. Is the passenger a terrorist? There are many MPs against whom cases have been filed... If the matter is not resolved by April 10, we will not attend NDA meeting," Raut said at a press conference on Thursday adding that the reply given by Raju in the Lok Sabha was "not sufficient".
Raut also raised question on how "hitting someone with slippers" be considered as an "attempt to murder."