Chaotic scenes as Indian MP resists flight ban in parliament

Ravindra Gaikwad (above, in a screenshot from an earlier interview) repeatedly struck an air steward with his sandal in March.
Ravindra Gaikwad (above, in a screenshot from an earlier interview) repeatedly struck an air steward with his sandal in March.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

NEW DELHI (AFP) - An Indian politician who attacked a flight steward after being refused a business-class seat caused uproar in parliament on Thursday (April 6) by demanding his ban on air travel be overturned.

Ravindra Gaikwad made national headlines after footage emerged in March of the Shiv Sena politician repeatedly striking a steward with his sandal aboard an Air India flight.

He has admitted whacking the 60-year-old steward roughly two dozen times during the altercation over seating on a flight from Pune to New Delhi.

 

Gaikwad has been forced to take trains after the airline filed a police complaint and banned him from its flights, prompting other airlines to follow suit.

But the hot-headed MP has refused to accept fault, prompting outrage in India's lower house when he demanded the ban be lifted.

"I hope for justice... What wrong have I done? What is my crime that there is a media trial without investigation?" he asked, as MPs screamed across the chamber at one another.

Gaikwad compared his predicament with prejudice to that endured by Mahatma Gandhi more than a century ago.

India's independence icon and most famous pacifist was ejected from a first-class train carriage in British South Africa, famously spurring his quest for civil rights.

Aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju refused to lift Gaikwad's ban, leading to chaotic scenes inside parliament as Shiv Sena politicians forced an adjournment through noisy protest.

"Safety is important and safety will not be compromised," Raju said, defending the decision to bar the MP.

Indian MPs often shuttle between New Delhi and their constituencies during the parliament session.

Gaikwad last month had to make the nearly 1,600km journey to his hometown in western Maharashtra state by train after an airline cancelled his ticket.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked lawmakers to resolve their dispute amicably.

"He cannot repeatedly take the train for such long distance travel," she told reporters outside parliament.