MUMBAI: Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, who happens to be a member of joint committee on security in the Parliament, on Thursday admitted to beating up a 60-year-old Air India duty manager with sandals following a heated argument over seating arrangement.
“Yes, I beat him as he misbehaved with me. I hit the Air India staffer 25 times with my sandals. Do you expect me to hear their abuses quietly?” he asked.
"I am a Shiv Sena member, not of BJP, to entertain abuses (hurled at me)," he said, adding that he "will not apologise". Gaikwad said he would also complain to the Lok Sabha Speaker about the incident.
The first-time MP, who was travelling from Pune to Delhi, was allegedly asked to sit in the economy class by the Air India staffer because of a last-minute change. After reaching Delhi airport, the MP remained seated in the aircraft and insisted on registering a complaint. This led to an argument between the two during which he assaulted the staffer, Gaikwad said.
According to an Air India spokesperson, its duty manager at Delhi airport was hit with slippers several times by Gaikwad, who complained about having to travel economy – on an all-economy flight - even though he had a business class ticket. "The MP turned violent, broke my spectacles, tore my shirt, hit me with slippers,” victim manager Sukumar said. “When I started talking in English, he asked me to talk in Hindi and when I started conversation in hindi, he started abusing me. He tookout his slipper and started beating me. Other staff also tried to intervene but couldn’t help,” Sukumar said in his complaint. Gaikwad had come from Pune to Delhi in flight number AI-852.
The announcement regarding incapability to provide business class accommodation came at the last moment from the Air India, who asked business class passengers to either take a refund or shift to economy class. Gaikwad decided to fly in the economy class but got into an argument with the airline staff soon after the flight took off, sources said.
Air India has lodged a complaint with police against Gaikwad. It has also constituted a committee to look into the incident and will be submitting its report shortly to the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
It seems this is not the first time that the MP has exhibited such behaviour. Sources said that earlier too, he had assaulted a hospital staffer in his constituency Osmanabad, and another employee at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi.
Reacting on the issue, Gaikwad party’s Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande however said that there should be a probe into the entire incident. "Ravi Gaikwad is our MP and as far as we know him, he is not the kind of person, who loses his temper so soon. He is a good MP. If you go to his constituency, you will find people talk good things about him. "He has worked for the people. But what happened here,what was the mistake of the airline official and what was the instigation which led to him taking such an extreme step, it should be probed," she said.
On the other side, Gaikwad is facing strong criticism from all other party leaders. Shaina NC of BJP said that the incident should be condemned in totality in one voice. "This is not about Shiv Sena, Congress, BJP or any party, it is about a conduct of an elected representative especially when you are in a position of power.
"Assuming there is somebody who is not polite to you, the least one expects from elected representative is to show restraint in a situation where you have not just public watching but the entire aircraft wondering if this is going to be the conduct of a politician," she said. Similarly, "It is not only Shiv Sena's responsibility, it is also the responsibility of the government which is in power. Aviation minister should take action because it is a government employee who has been attacked by this MP," Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said.
(With inputs from PTI)