Ravindra 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 MP turned violent, broke the duty manager's spectacles, tore his shirt, hit him with slippers 16-17 times," Air India sources said. Gaikwad had heated argument with AI officials at the time of boarding the plane in Pune for the national capital too over the flight not having business class seats. 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 March 23 flight from Pune to Delhi. Sukumar also tried to pacify the MP, who vociferously complained about the morning flight to Delhi from Pune not having business class. When the aircraft landed in Delhi, he refused to disembark despite attempts at persuading him to do so.


The MP, who was unapologetic about his actions, even boasting about it on national TV, claimed it was the officer's threat to complain about it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that made him lose his cool.



"I first asked him to lower his voice as his blood pressure would shoot up. He then said he would complain to Modi. Then I slapped him. I hit him 25 times with my sandal.

 

"I am Shiv Sena MP, not of BJP, to tolerate abuses," 



Gaikwad, bragging about the incident, said,"I was about to throw him off the plane." According to a report in the The New Indian Express, the stewardess also is heard telling the MP in  a video: “Aap fenk denge toh murder case ho jayega na, sir (If you throw him down, it will be a murder case, sir)”. The MP is heard replying: “Hone do na, bahut cases hai hamare upar (Let it happen, there are many cases against me.”

 



He boastfully claimed he held up the plane for "full one hour" and did not allow the maintenance staff to clean the aircraft.

When asked whether he had any regret for his actions and if he would apologise, a defiant Gaikwad, said: "I have no regret. The officer should come and apologise... the Air India CMD needs to apologise to me instead. I am a customer," he told Times Now news channel. On persistent query whether he would tender an apology if Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray asked him, he said, "Yes, I will. But only if Uddhav Ji tells me, nobody else." 

Gaikwad is the same man 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.
 

 

The Shiv Sena, meanwhile, has sought an explanation from Gaikwad.Earlier, Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande had said, "Shiv Sena does not subscribe to any such reaction by any of our party members.
 

The incident has prompted Air India to examine the possibility of having a no-fly list for unruly passengers, who according to global airlines body IATA, are one of the top three safety issues that concern cabin crew across airlines.
 

The incident definitely shows how the VIP culture in India is at odds with governance of the country. This is not the first time  a minister or an MP has caused ruckus on board flights, often co-passengers have had to suffer because of the late arrivals or other whimsical notions of people in power. When it was trains, even they used to be delayed to accommodate the minister’s travel schedule. When will this stop?

 

With inputs from PTI