NEW DELHI: Even as public outrage over the assault of a 60-year-old Air India official by Ravindra Gaikwad refuses to die down, several parliamentarians added fuel to the fire by attacking airline operators’ ban on the Shiv Sena MP. Gaikwad, who boasted of beating an Air India official ‘25 times’ with his slipper, found unusual support from unlikely fronts — the Congress and the Samajwadi Party.
In an apparent display of support for own kin, beyond political fault lines, Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agrawal attacked airline operators for the disciplinary action. “Airlines banning Ravindra Gaikwad just goes to show their dadagiri,” Agrawal claimed on Monday.
Support also came from the Congress side. “ He is a famous leader in Osmanabad. We should keep in mind how the officer talked to Gaikwad,” said Congress MP Hussain Dalwani, adding later that he does not support the assault.
Only one factor seems to have brought parliamentarians, cutting across party lines, together on the issue -- their privileges, that are often misused, coming under attack. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan went to the extent of saying that ‘MPs cannot travel by train always to attend Parliament’.
“I feel this issue of blanket ban should be resolved amicably,” she said. Later in the day, unconfirmed reports claimed the government is looking to modify the Civil Aviation Requirement rules to restrict the powers of airlines to ban passengers, taking the duty of doing so upon itself.
The only person to protest against the ganging up of parliamentarians to protect their privileges was Congress MP Vivek Tankha. “Sad our colleague MPs are seen defending Ravindra Gaikwad. It reflects badly on us,” he tweeted. Interestingly, Tankha had written to SpiceJet last year, against ‘extra courtesies’ that are extended to MPs and VVIPs by flight operators.
Describing his own experience, Tankha had written: “I was surprised that as I boarded the transit bus at the Delhi airport, the doors were abruptly shut to other passengers and just three of us (two other MPs) were exclusively ferried. I strongly feel that an MP is like any other passenger and should expect same courtesy as offered to others.”