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No April Fool's Day joke: Finnish PM had flown sitting on a toilet seat but our MPs want business class

The Prime Minister of Finland flew in an ambulance flight to reach his destination sitting on a toilet seat: This may look like an April Fool's Day joke, but to make sure this wasn't a prank, a check revealed that this news initially came out in November 2015.

Facts are, inter alia, as follows: Juha Sipilä, the Finnish Prime Minister, missed several flights from Helsinki to Oulu due to an engagement which lasted longer than planned and chose an ambulance flight. The lone vacant seat went to his wife and leader sat through the flight on a toilet seat.

He apparently made no fuss at all about his VIP status, unlike our Osmanabad MP Ravindra Gaikwad. Gaikwad had noted that his flight from Delhi to Pune had only economy class, while he had a business class ticket. He had also proudly proclaimed that he hit an employee of the carrier with his footwear.

 No April Fools Day joke: Finnish PM had flown sitting on a toilet seat but our MPs want business class

File image of Ravindra Gaikwad. CNN-News18

In July 2015, Union minster Kiren Rijiju had allowed or ensured the offloading of three passengers including a child so that he and his associates could travel. He later made some excuses and apologised. These antics stemming from a pre-eminent sense of self-conferred entitlement are not rare. Flights are held up, and no apologies are issued to any of those who are harried by their actions.

Things are different elsewhere, though not universally so. Kenya Today had described the reaction of an Iranian delegation member to the routine of the Netherland’s prime minister cycling to work. An economic powerhouse in Netherlands, yet the Dutch politician goes to work on a bicycle without escort cars. The Iranian delegation was reportedly “ashamed”.

We do not know if that experience of seeing the unthinkable wrought about any changes in Iran, but at least the head of the police delegation was “shocked” and “ashamed” to see Prime Minister Mark Rutte using a bicycle to come to office to receive a foreign delegation. In Mumbai, the newly elected mayor, Snehal Ambekar defied the Supreme Court and refused to shed the red beacon atop her car.

Ambekar upgraded herself to “like a chief minister” as a justification. Her excuse for not complying with the use of only a green beacon was that she receives foreign delegations and had to keep her status intact. Her predecessor, Sunil Prabhu, too had stuck to it saying it was the “traditional right" of the mayor. Interestingly, both come from the same political party as Gaikwad’s – Shiv Sena.

Though the Shiv Sena’s first reaction to Gaikwad’s violence was that it did not believe in or condone – hard to stomach contention for a party which prides itself on “our methods” which is a metaphor for use of muscle – it actually used the clause of privilege of an MP to ask the Indian air carrier to withdraw the ban on its MP from flying on their services. Such solidarity and such single-minded enforcement of a decision by Air India is itself unusual for it is used to balk when a politician was involved.

Another Gaikwad, first name Sunil, a BJP MP from Latur has spoken of “harassment” because he shared the surname with Ravindra Gaikwad. He “was shocked to see the attitude of the security personnel towards me. They stopped me at the entrance and allowed entry half an hour later after verification." He was also "dismayed to see a few private security personnel around me” after he had boarded.

Whatever is the final outcome, the unprecedented solidarity that the several airlines have shown with Air India by barring Gaikwad from using their flights, has a message. They are speaking on behalf of the common man about the sense of entitlement of the politicians.

That’s a message the political class should not miss. For they have had enough of them serving to themselves privileges. They include barring traffic to allow VIPs the unhindered right of use of road, special treatment in hospitals, absurdly cheap food in Parliament and Legislature canteens etc. No doubt they are to be doing a public duty, but should claims to privileges and in-your-face perks be in a manner that leaves a bad taste in the mouth?

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Updated Date: Apr 01, 2017 16:39:55 IST

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