Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju should be complimented for showing courage and conviction in upholding the dignity of his office, the Parliament and the rule of law, and while doing so be on the right side of the national conscience on Air India versus Lok Sabha member of Parliament Ravindra Gaikwad issue which has now turned into a battle between Shiv Sena and airline companies.
He stood his ground in a situation when entire Shiv Sena was up against Air India and other airlines, claiming that Ravindra Gaikwad’s pure goonda act of beating a senior airline staffer and his subsequent bragging about it should be taken as a parliamentarian’s privilege. He didn’t care that he was holding the law against a party, which, too, was part of the ruling NDA and as a minister in-charge he can’t allow an aggressor to play a belated victim card, even if the said aggressor is MP of a ruling alliance.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Raju said: "I had explained about civil aviation’s requirement... First of all, it is a process of law. The law should take its own course. Whatever the member (Gaikwad) wants, he can do that from his side. When I made the submission to the House on the civil aviation’s requirement I made it very clear that it is not a ‘member of Parliament’, it is a ‘passenger’. I am on record in regard to that. But aircraft are machines in which people fly. Safety is important and it will not be compromised.”
The minister’s conscientious remarks didn’t go well with the Shiv Sena and some other parties, and what followed was ruckus inside the House.
In creating the ruckus, Shiv Sena found an unlikely ally in Trinamool Congress from the opposition benches, a party which has been looking for every single opportunity with and without merit to taken on the government after Narendra Modi surprised the nation with the demonetisation drive.
Kalyan Banerjee, Trinamool MP from Sreerampur, was up on his feet shouting: “This is not the way. The civil aviation minister has not given the answer. He is not giving the answer as to under what law he (Gaikwad) can be banned. Under what law can it be done. This is not fair. I am not on the talking about the crime, that is, what has happened or what has not happened. I am not on that. But under what law or under what provisions of law, can a passenger be banned? Under what law it can be done is what I wish to know from the Minister (sic).”
This contentious issue saw another unusual spectacle in the Parliament: two ministers of Modi government — heavy industries minister Anant Geete and civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju — took the floor of the House to counter each other. It should be noted how Geete, the only minister in Modi government from Shiv Sena, began his intervention in support of Gaikwad and rest of his party: "I am a minister of Government of India and also an MP of this House."
The burden of his argument that a gross injustice had been done to the honourable MP Ravindra Gaikwad where FIR was filed against him and he was banned from flying in any domestic airlines without declared guilty in any investigation. It didn’t matter to Geete that Gaikwad for days bragged about how he “beat that Air India official 25 times with sandal, kaan ke niche baja dala (banged him below his ears)".
Thereafter, minister Geete committed an open act of defiance and came out with serious accusations of unfairness against his own government: “The way our government, the (Narendra) Modi-led government which is people’s government, can ban an MP from flying on any airline is a highly painful and shameful act. I feel pain and shame... What kind of justice is that?”
What was even more disturbing was the fact that Shiv Sena as a party not just condoned the highly uncivilised act of its MP but also went to town portraying its supposed self-righteousness and playing the victim's card.
Now, consider what party leader Sanjay Raut, who took all Shiv Sena MPs to hold a media conference inside the Parliament House premises had to say: “Who is the Air India chairman before us? He is just a government servant. He should stay in his limits... Is the passenger a terrorist? There are many MPs against whom cases have been filed... If the matter is not resolved by 10 April, we will not attend the NDA meeting.” He also questioned the aukat (stature) of Air India CMD.
Sena leaders don’t realise that politics of bullying everyone including their own alliance partners, the government of the day and institutions don’t really work in modern times. It has also not taken a lesson from its shrinking base in Maharastra as reflected in the Assembly and local bodies elections. Raut’s pointing fingers that somebody at the top in government pressurised airlines to take this action and thus our pleas to various leaders in the ruling dispensation have fallen on deaf ears is not going to cut ice either.
The party could try and make resolution of this issue as a bargaining chip in the upcoming presidential and vice-presidential elections. In the last two presidential elections, Sena sided with Congress to vote against the BJP-NDA candidate. Whether or not Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP will yield and strike a compromise with Shiv Sena over the Gaikwad-Air India issue, remains to be seen.
Gaikwad's own speech during Zero Hour in Lok Sabha was without any remorse. He claimed that he was a teacher and thus wouldn’t do anything wrong. He compared his position with Mahatma Gandhi being thrown off the train in South Africa and Modi denied US visa while he was the chief minister of Gujarat. Gaikwad took pride in claiming that he followed the ideals of Chhatrapati Shivaji as preached to him by Bal Thackeray and the instructions of current Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
He conveniently forgot that in one of his multiple bites to TV cameras he had said he followed Bal Thackeray’s preaching that if someone is not convinced by an argument after repeated attempts bang him below his ears. In his bio-data to the Parliament, Gaikwad highlights his M Com and B Ed degrees, and his profession is agriculturist and professor.
Gaikwad should ask himself whether his act of beating an airline staffer with slippers and attempts to throw him on the tarmac from over an aircraft was a professorial act or not.
Updated Date: Apr 06, 2017 23:24 PM