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The aviation ministry on Friday ordered the Air India to immediately lift the two-week-old ban on grounded Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad. The airline complied with the order and now private airlines, which were waiting for AI's decision, will follow suit.
The government move came despite the AI management telling the aviation ministry on Thursday that Gaikwad must apologise to the airline and its employees. AI cabin crew termed him a flight risk and the pilots said they did not want to fly him unless he apologised.
However, disregarding this, the aviation ministry has issued a missive to AI to lift the ban on the MP. The ministry accepted Gaikwad's 'regret' letter issued to aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Thursday in which he had said that his earlier behaviour should not be seen as an indicator that such things will happen again.
Gaikwad had been banned by Air India and then all private airlines like IndiGo, Jet, SpiceJet and GoAir, on March 24 — a day after he beat up a 60-year-old AI staffer with sandals and tried to throw him off the plane at Delhi Airport.
On Thursday, Shiv Sena had threatened that it will stop flights in Mumbai and skip the dinner hosted by PM Modi next Monday unless their law-maker is back on planes. Shiv Sena MPs and ministers heckled and gheraoed aviation minister A G Raju in Lok Sabha and Raju had to be escorted to his chamber by BJP ministers. There was tremendous pressure on BJP from ally Shiv Sena — which is providing crucial support to the coalition government in Maharashtra — to get the ban lifted on Gaikwad.
The government gave in to the Sena pressure. The aviation ministry's move comes after several rounds of meetings AI chief Ashwani Lohani had with both aviation minister — A G Raju and Jayant Sinha — in which the CMD made the airline's stand clear.