Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad hit an Air India staffer with his slipper during a discussion over seating arrangements, the airline’s spokesperson told ANI on Thursday. The first-time MP from Maharashtra said he had hit the employee 25 times with his sandal because was given an economy class seat repeatedly despite booking business class tickets from Pune to Delhi.
An Air India’s spokesperson said an FIR had been lodged against the legislator, and they were mulling over compiling a “no-fly list of unruly passengers”. The airline lodged a second FIR against him for forcibly holding the flight and delaying it for 40 minutes. The national carrier has also set up a panel to investigate the altercation.
The MP appeared unrepentant for his actions. “Haan maine usko maara tha, usne badtameezi ki thi [Yes, I hit him. He had misbehaved],” he told ANI. Gaikwad said he had initially refused to leave the plane, but later decided to complain and asked to speak with an official who would be able to resolve his problem.
“I said I am an MP, don’t raise your voice. He said, ‘what MP? I will talk to Modi,’” Gaikwad said. While speaking to CNN-News18, the Shiv Sena leader said the Air India staffer should not have behaved the way he did with a customer.
The assaulted staffer, however, said the MP got abusive when he was told his request could not be complied with. “He broke my spectacles and humiliated me in front of the whole crew. God save our country if this is the culture and behavior of our MPs,” he told ANI.
The Shiv Sena has sought an explanation from Gaikwad. “The Sena does not condone violence of any kind. We have also sought a version of the incident from the Air India staffer,” Harshal Pradhan, media adviser to party president Uddhav Thackeray, told PTI.
Earlier, Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande had defended Gaikwad, saying, “We really should know what made him lose his temper. He is not a person who would suddenly jump into such a thing.” She had earlier said there was “no defence for such condemnable action”.
Gaikwad represents the right-wing party from Maharashtra’s Osmanabad constituency.