Gaikwad finally voices regret over Air India incident

Sena MPs create scene in Lok Sabha

Gaikwad finally voices regret over  Air India incident

After remaining defiant since he assaulted an Air India employee on March 23, Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad on Thursday expressed “regrets” for the “unfortunate incident” that led to airlines banning him from flying with them.

Sena sources said Gaikwad has been asked to book his air ticket on Air India, indicating that the ban has been revoked. However, the civil aviation ministry is tight-lipped on the matter.

The day began with high drama with Shiv Sena leader and Union minister Anant Geete charging in the Lok Sabha at his colleague in the Union government Ashok Gajapathi Raju, in behaviour rarely seen in the House.

The act demonstrated the party’s frustration over the Gaikwad ban.
But later in the evening, Gaikwad wrote an apology to Civil Aviation Minister Raju and sought waiver from the ban which he said was affecting the discharge of his parliamentary duties.

“I write to convey my regrets for the unfortunate incidents that took place on 23 March, 2017, in the Air India flight No. AI-852 seat No. 1F. It could have been no one’s intention to have let the situation aggravate to the level it eventually did,” Gaikwad wrote, aiming to defuse the crisis which had cast a cloud over the relationship between the bickering coalition partners, Shiv Sena and BJP.

The Sena MP from Osmanabad left it to the investigation of the case to fix responsibility.
“While the ongoing investigation will bring out the factual sequence of events to fix responsibility, this incident may kindly not be seen as a reason for likely recurrence of such an event in the future also. As the restriction on flying is affecting the effective discharge of my responsibilities and duties, I would request you to lift this restriction and let the investigation eventually determine the circumstances which led to the incident,” he wrote.

Sources said the BJP-led government had indicated to the Sena that the case against their MP would continue and that he will have to express remorse in writing as a prerequisite to lifting the ban.

BL Maharashtra ally, however, is bargaining with the government for dilution of charges slapped against Gaikwad, especially attempt to murder which the party argues is disproportionate to the offence of hitting someone with slippers.

Earlier in the afternoon, Shiv Sena held a press conference and threatened to boycott an NDA meet on Monday if its leader was not allowed to resume flying.

The party threatened to expose at an appropriate time "some pressure" which it said was continously put to scuttle a possible patch-up.

Sena leader Sanjay Raut was so belligerent that he told reporters that now his party will set the "timeline" and the BJP-led government will abide by it.

Claiming the Sena had become confrontational on the directions of its chief Uddhav Thackeray, Raut also expressed reservations over the stand of the civil aviation minister and Air India’s chairman-cum-managing director in the entire episode. "What is CMD's stature? He is trying to humiliate us on social media," he said.

In the series of meetings, Raju interacted with Geete and other Sena MPs at the Sena leader’s office in Parliament after the encounter in the Lok Sabha.

In the meetings, the first signs of a thaw had emerged, which eventually shaped the final outcome. Union minister Rajnath Singh, who had tried to defuse the tension between Sena MPs and the civil aviation minister in Parliament, had assured Lok Sabha that an amicable solution would be found at the earliest.


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