Delhi: A FIR was lodged on Thursday against Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, who repeatedly hit an elderly Air India officer with sandal in a brazen burst of fury over being unable to travel business class despite having insisted on boarding an all-economy flight.
Gaikwad, the Lok Sabha MP from Maharashtra’s Osmanabad, slapped and, by his own claim, hit 60-year-old duty manager Sukumar 25 times with his sandal 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.
“The MP turned violent, broke the duty manager’s spectacles, tore his shirt, hit him with slippers,” said Air India sources, as per PTI.
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, which is an all-economy flight, sparking an argument between Air India staff and the politician.
The MP boarded the flight but when the aircraft landed in Delhi, he refused to disembark despite attempts at persuading him to do so and vociferously complained about the morning flight to Delhi from Pune not having business class.
This is when Sukumar, approached the MP to try and placate him but was brutally manhandled, said Air India sources.
Gaikwad admitted hitting the Air India employee with his slippers.
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.
“He asked who is this MP and said he would complain to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So I slapped him. I hit him 25 times with my sandal. I am Shiv Sena member, not of BJP, to entertain abuses (hurled at me),” he said adding he “will not apologise”.
The Shiv Sena, meanwhile, has sought an explanation from 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, told PTI.
“We have also sought a version of the incident from the AI staffer. The Sena has a workers’ union in Air India,” he said.
On the other hand, 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.