Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who, earlier this week, led the offensive in Parliament against airlines’ flight-ban on MP Ravindra Gaikwad, tells Shruti Ganapatye that the whole affair is a well-planned conspiracy to malign MPs and MLAs.
You were the first to defend Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad after he admitted to beating an Air India employee. Do you support his actions?
I did not defend him. He is not only an MP from my party but also a party worker from the backward region of Marathwada. He has been associated with the Shiv Sena for many years. He has been elected thrice as an MLA from the same constituency on a Sena ticket. He contested the Lok Sabha election twice and lost once. He is a veteran Shiv Sainik. Instead of using the word “defend”, I would say that standing by a fellow party worker in his time of difficulty is the responsibility of a leader or the party. I did just that. Until we spoke to Mr Gaikwad, nobody knew about what the truth was. Neither the Air India CMD nor us were aware (of the facts). Many things came to light after talking to him. The incident, as the media has been reporting it, might have led to a negative public perception.
Many people reacted sharply against Mr Gaikwad’s actions, but when we tried to understand the other side of the story, we realised that blaming Mr Gaikwad alone is not correct. There has to be a free and fair inquiry of the entire episode, without pressure from airlines. The whole hullabaloo was created because of prejudices against politicians. It has become fashionable to target the politicians. But let me tell you that 99 per cent of politicians behave politely with the general public because it’s the citizens who elect them. People will not vote for them if they are rude or disrespectful. On the other hand, it has been our experience that the people do not vote for so-called activists who keep criticising politicians.
Do you consider airlines revoking the ban against Mr Gaikwad a victory for the party?
Definitely! But the whole episode was very unfortunate. Action was taken against Mr Gaikwad without understanding his side. If Mr Gaikwad had beaten up the crew member, he should be punished as per the law. If Mr Gaikwad said he hit the man 25 times with his slippers, then his punishment should be according to the crime. But he was booked under Section 308 of the IPC, which is culpable homicide. He did not even get a chance to speak and all airlines started banning him. This is a well-planned conspiracy to convey a wrong message to the people about MPs and MLAs. Some people want to project bureaucrats as smart people and politicians as dumb. This thought has been systematically infused among the citizens of our country in recent times.
Who is hatching the conspiracy? Is the BJP behind it?
I do not want to name anyone. But it (the backlash) is against the Shiv Sena. “They” grabbed an opportunity to corner the Shiv Sena. Instead of helping the party in its times of trouble, they thought it was an opportunity to bring the Shiv Sena to its knees. But conspiracies get exposed. Whom did the Air India CMD consult with before banning Mr Gaikwad? It has argued that the ban was not action against an MP, but against an unruly passenger. But one must understand that the decision to ban him was taken on the basis of the claims made by only one side and without hearing him out.
Do you mean to say that he was denied fair opportunity to put forth his side?
Yes, he was denied a fair chance to defend himself. In the whole series of events, people were not interested in hearing him out, but jumped to conclusions based on one-sided claims made by the staff of the airline.
Do you think that only the Shiv Sena is being targeted this way?
Two months ago, a Telugu Desam Party MP hit a duty manager of an airline and tried to halt the flight. What action was taken against him? Was an FIR lodged? No. Yesterday, a Trinamul Congress MP halted the flight for 40 minutes. Was he banned from flying? No. Then why did you create trouble for a Sena MP? Another Lok Sabha MP, who is a friend and I do not wish to name, created a ruckus on a Mumbai-Patna flight. Was he banned? No. Then why was a Sena MP targeted?
Are you supporting violence?
I am not supporting violence, but the law should be equal for all. Why are there different punishments for a single crime? Even terrorists like Ajmal Kasab received a fair trial, so why did an MP not get a fair chance to defend himself?
There are many instances in which the flights were delayed because of politicians. Do you justify that?
I do not think so. I have been MP for many years. I personally follow all the rules and regulations laid down by airlines. I ensure that there should not be any problem because of me. At least 99 per cent of the politicians follow the rules, particularly the ones from Maharashtra.
But don’t you think there was a spontaneous public reaction to the incident?
I do not believe this. There was a systematic effort to fan anger against Mr Gaikwad.
Is the matter over now?
I have demanded that one should check if the staffer who was allegedly beaten up is really employed by Air India. The CMD should answer this. He was not an Air India employee. When the MP demanded a complaint book at the airport, the company could not give it to him. When he asked for an official to lodge a complaint, nobody turned up for 40 minutes. When this particular staff member approached the MP, he spoke very rudely. He is not an Air India employee, but belongs to a private company.
How did he get into an Air India plane? If it was the case of an unruly passenger, security guards should have handled the situation. Why did this man appear? Who is he? Also we want medical report of this man and a report on his mental status. The CMD should submit these reports to the Union aviation minister and present them before Parliament....