The Sena MPs would not let Raju leave. Home minister Rajnath Singh had to intervene to defuse the crisis. Photograph: (AFP)
Air India has said it will withdraw the flight ban imposed on the Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad if he apologises
Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad -- who was banned by Air India after he repeatedly beat their employee with a slipper -- has regretted the incident in a letter to civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and requested that the flight ban on him be lifted.
A meeting between Minister of State for Aviation Jayant Sinha and Air India CMD on lifting of ban on Ravindra Gaikwad is currently underway at the Airlines House in Indian capital New Delhi.
Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad conveys regret to Civil Aviation Min Ashok Gajapathi Raju, requests to lift fly ban imposed on him pic.twitter.com/L933Cn2HKq— ANI (@ANI_news) April 6, 2017
Air India said earlier Thursday it will withdraw the flight ban imposed on the Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad if he apologised, ANI quoted sources as saying.
The Shiv Sena, meanwhile, remained defiant about Ravindra Gaikwad's behaviour. Party leader Sanjay Raut called the airline the "servant of the public" and said Air India had no right to insult a person on social media.
"What is Air India? Who is CMD? What is their status and where do they even stand? How can they even insult an MP so openly on social media? Who has given them this right? It is peoples' servant, India's servant. If you expect us to learn to behave properly, then first you learn the same," Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said while addressing a press conference.
The Indian government said Thursday it will hold discussions with stakeholders to find an "amicable solution" to the stand off between the Shiv Sena and the government after the flight ban imposed on Shiv Sena legislator Ravindra Gaikwad.
The assurance from federal home minister Rajnath Singh came after Shiv Sena members, including Union Minister Anant Geete, surrounded civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and yelled at him during today's proceedings in the Lok Sabha.
Rajnath Singh said Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju will hold discussions with the stakeholders to arrive at an "amicable solution" at the earliest.
As soon as the House met at 13:15 hours after three adjournments over the issue, Rajnath Singh said the incident related to Air India was unfortunate and it would have been better if it had not happened.
The Shiv Sena, an ally of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the centre, threatened to boycott an NDA meeting if the flight ban on Ravindra Gaikwad was not revoked. Party sources earlier said the travel ban, imposed after the MP beat up a flight attendant, is likely to be revoked today, PTI reported.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said there has been a conspiracy behind the ban and the party will expose it at an appropriate time.
"We will not attend the NDA meeting on April 10 if the travel ban on Gaikwad is not revoked," Raut said, noting that this is an "instruction from party chief Uddhav Thackeray".
Ravindra Gaikwad today attended the Lok Sabha proceedings for the first time after the incident. He denied any wrongdoing on his part and instead accused Air India officials of misbehaving with him and sought action against them.
Gaikwad tendered an apology to Parliament but insisted that he owed no apology to the airline officials as he sought removal of the ban imposed on him by domestic airlines after he allegedly beat up an Air India officer with slippers.
The civil aviation minister said it was up to Gaikwad to decide if he wanted to defuse the matter or aggravate it, asserting that what has happened is as per the law which will take its own course. Refusing any preferential treatment to the Sena member, he said the matter was not about an MP but a passenger.
"Aircraft is a machine where people fly. Safety is important. Safety cannot be compromised," Raju said, apparently justifying the ban on Gaikwad.
Upset with Raju's brief but pointed remarks, Shiv Sena members, including Union Minister Anant Geete, surrounded the civil aviation minister after he refused to heed their demand to revoke the flying ban.
BJP members watched in shock as their allies hit Raju's bench in anger and did not allow him to leave.
Soon after, several leaders, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, tried to placate Geete and his colleagues while Raju was ushered out.
Ravindra Gaikwad was barred by Air India and six other domestic airlines from flying after he assaulted an Air India staffer last month.
Air India, meanwhile, is likely to step up security for its staff at the Mumbai and Pune airports after Shiv Sena lawmakers allegedly threatened to stall the airline's operations at the two key airports, PTI reported.
The Sena MPs had warned of grounding Air India operations at the two airports in Maharashtra after the party failed to get an assurance from Gajapathu Raju over lifting of the flying ban on Ravindra Gaikwad.
(WION with inputs from PTI)