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Centre wants flight bully to apologise

The Centre today indicated that the Shiv Sena MP accused of assaulting an Air India staffer should apologise, fearing outrage if the ban domestic airlines have imposed on him is revoked without him showing remorse.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 29.03.17
  •  

New Delhi, March 28: The Centre today indicated that the Shiv Sena MP accused of assaulting an Air India staffer should apologise, fearing outrage if the ban domestic airlines have imposed on him is revoked without him showing remorse.

"The MP bragging about assaulting the aged staffer has made matters worse for us. It has become very difficult to justify any mercy towards him. He should at least apologise before anything can be done," a senior minister said. The minister pointed out that if the ban is lifted without an apology, it could generate outrage among common people.

Today, Air India cancelled two tickets booked by MP Ravindra Gaikwad on Delhi-bound flights. The MP had booked a seat on AI 806 from Mumbai to Delhi for tomorrow through his staff. The airline promptly cancelled it. Another attempt was made to book a seat on AI 551 from Hyderabad but that too was cancelled.

The Shiv Sena, however, continued to put pressure on the government to revoke the ban on Gaikwad. The party today moved a privilege motion in the Lok Sabha on the ban.

In the motion, the Sena said the "syndicate" of airlines had challenged an elected representative's right to travel and it was an assault on the privilege of the House, sources said. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan did not give any ruling on the motion, saying she was considering it.

The assault and the subsequent ban on Gaikwad appears to have got associated with the tussle between allies BJP and the Sena, particularly after the Sena proposed the name of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for the President's post.

The Sena's move is being seen in government circles as another attempt to nettle the BJP and put pressure on it to lift the flight ban.

The government had indicated yesterday that it was exploring the option of revoking the ban. Today, however, some ministers appeared firm after the Sena proposed Bhagwat's name.

Asked about the Sena's proposal, ministers sought to dismiss it with anger. "What? Do they want to make the RSS chief president of the Shiv Sena?" a minister asked, adding he believed the Sena was playing a "mischief".

The minister denied any discussion with the Sena or other NDA allies over the presidential election.

Privately, some Sena MPs felt that the BJP was behind the flight ban and said it would have consequences. They said that while the ban by Air India, whose staff was assaulted by the MP, was justifiable, the decision of the other airlines to join it was unacceptable. "Why did the other airlines ban the MP? There is a conspiracy," a Sena MP said.

During a meeting with civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju yesterday, Sena MPs had pointed out that the assault had not taken place in the air and so the argument that it posed a threat to the safety of other passengers did not hold.

Sena members said they could afford to flex their muscles as the BJP needed the party's support to elect a President of its choice. The Sena has 18 MPs and 63 MLAs.