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Despite Sena fury & MP's 'regret', Air India says ban still in place

The Shiv Sena and its MP Ravindra Gaikwad, in the eye of a storm over assaulting an Air India staffer last month, on Thursday blew hot and cold over revocation of the flying ban on the Lok Sabha member from Osmanabad.

Declared persona non grata by all major domestic airlines, Gaikwad on Thursday tendered apology to the Lok Sabha for the incident and also voiced "regret" over the "unfortunate incident", while a combative Shiv Sena threatened to disrupt AI operations in Mumbai and Pune forced repeated adjournment of the House over the issue.

It also declared it would not attend the April 10 meeting of the NDA if the ban was not lifted.

Gaikwad, who attended the proceedings for the first time since the incident when he assaulted an Air India employee and boastfully claimed on national TV about having hit him with slippers 25 times, played a victim, insisting he had only retaliated against provocation.

As the ruling NDA ally made an all-out attempt to get the ban lifted, a string of meetings followed to break the impasse, with first signs of a possible resolution emerging when Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured the House that discussions will be held with the stakeholders to find an "amicable solution" at the earliest.

In the evening, Gaikwad wrote a letter to Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapthi Raju voicing "regret" over the "unfortunate incident".

"I write to convey my regrets for the unfortunate incident that took place on 23rd March, 2017 in the Air India Flight No. AI-852 seat No. 1F," Gaikwad, who has been steadfast in refusing to tender an apology to either the national carrier or the staffer concerned, said.

"It could have been no one's intention to have let the situation aggravate to the level that it eventually did. While the on-going investigation will bring out the factual sequence of events to fix responsibility, this incident may kindly not be seen as a reason for likely recurrence of such an event in future also," he said in the letter.

The letter, according to official sources, followed a meeting in Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan's chamber in Parliament where Shiv Sena MPs were told that if Gaikwad issued a statement committing that he would not engage in any such incident in future, the government could intervene and have the ban revoked.

"As the restriction on flying is affecting the effective discharge of my duties and responsibilities, I would request you to lift this restriction and let the investigation eventually determine the circumstances which led to the incident," Gaikwad said.

Air India sources, meanwhile, said the ban is still in force.

Sources in the Civil Aviation Ministry said Gaikwad's letter was being "examined".

"MoCA (Ministry of Civil Aviation) has always maintained that Gaikwad should tender an apology. Now that we have a letter with an undertaking that such incidents will not be repeated, his letter is being examined," sources said.

The day started with belligerent Shiv Sena MPs creating an uproar in the Lok Sabha where they surrounded Raju after the latter refused to concede their demand for lifting the ban.

The House watched in shock as Sena MPs banged Raju's bench in unbridled fury and refused to allow him to leave. Among those who joined in creating the ruckus was the lone Sena minister in the union cabinet Anant Geete.

Rajnath Singh had to intervene to placate the agitated Sena members and usher Raju out.

"Aircraft is a machine where people fly. Safety is important. Safety cannot be compromised," Raju had earlier said, while responding to the Shiv Sena's demand. His response left the Sena MPs fuming.

Sena MP says sorry, AI ban still in place

The Shiv Sena and its MP Ravindra Gaikwad, in the eye of a storm over assaulting an Air India staffer last month, on Thursday blew hot and cold over revocation of the flying ban on the Lok Sabha member from Osmanabad.

Declared persona non grata by all major domestic airlines, Gaikwad on Thursday tendered apology to the Lok Sabha for the incident and also voiced "regret" over the "unfortunate incident", while a combative Shiv Sena threatened to disrupt AI operations in Mumbai and Pune forced repeated adjournment of the House over the issue.

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