It is not for the first time that a Member of Parliament or a politician has been involved in an unpleasantly unpardonable incident. There is sufficient prima facie evidence to proceed against Shiv Sena leader Ravindra Gaikwad, who allegedly repeatedly thrashed an elderly Air India staffer with his sandal after he was allotted an economy category seat on a flight that did not have business class.
Air India authorities have filed two FIRs against the Lok Sabha member from Osmanabad in Maharashtra, while the Shiv Sena leadership has sought his immediate explanation. The Nationalist Congress Party has demanded the expulsion of Gaikwad from Parliament for his abhorrent behaviour. By his own admission, he hit the 60-year-old duty manager more than two dozen times and after which he threatened that he would take up the matter with the Speaker and other authorities. In the meanwhile, Air India and some private airlines have banned him from travelling by their aircraft.
The issue, which has arisen, is why political parties cannot rein in their nominees and instruct them to remain within the confines of both dignity and decorum. Gaikwad belongs to the Shiv Sena, which has a dismal track record so far as the conduct of their members is concerned. Shiv Sena’s offshoot MNS has virtually inherited the same DNA. Its members have always hit the headlines for all the atrocious reasons. Many of their activists have been charged with gross misbehaviour with officials and employees of various undertakings. They believe it is their right to be impudent, thus showing total disregard for authority of any kind either to draw attention to themselves or to practice their hate agenda.
Former Shiv Sena leaders such as Narayan Rane and Sanjay Nirupam, who are now in the Congress, are not known for exercising reasonable restraint in their dealings and have often courted trouble by being verbally uncivil to the point of getting physically aggressive at times. Many of those who have done political apprenticeship in the Sena have a vocabulary so colourful that would put street Dadas to shame.
Gaikwad is not the only one who has publicly disgraced his position. After the announcement of the Assembly results, Samajwadi Party’s Azam Khan had a run in with an official whom he accused of being disrespectful despite the fact that he owed his posting to his political masters.
In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other parts of the country as well, the political class demonstrates its propensity to be vile, vulgar and violent. This is where a line needs to be drawn so that breach of discipline or any kind of impropriety carries a heavy punishment. It should be no surprise that Gaikwad would get away with his misdemeanour and the case would be eventually settled through a regret being expressed or some sort of underhand compromise.
Regulars at the Central Hall of Parliament would recall that the current Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was involved in an unforgettably unforgivable spat with a waiter in the 1990s. Intervention by other members prevented what could have been an ugly situation and the matter remains confined to the memories of those who were present in the august premises that particular day.
Delhi’s first Chief Minister, the late Chaudhury Brahm Perkash was at one time known for his hot headed demeanour. Congress veterans have varied stories about him. However, one incident which stands out is when he in full public view slapped Brij Mohan, his protégé and at that point the Indian Youth Congress president and chairman of the Standing Committee of Municipal Corporation. This occurred in the early 1960s and Brij Mohan chose not to speak out against his mentor and the unquestioned leader of Delhi. The victim simply said that Brahm Perkash was a father-figure and had every right to do what he did.
In the early 1980s, the otherwise calm, composed and well mannered Rajiv Gandhi, then a Congress general secretary roughed up a senior police official at the site of a fire that broke out in Delhi’s Panchkuian Road. Pandit Hari Dev, ACP Parliament Street had rushed to the spot and had no role to play in the late arrival of the fire engines. Rajiv also arrived at the venue and after being influenced by those around him, grabbed Hari Dev by the scruff of his neck, tearing his epaulets and buttons in the process. He ordered the police officer’s suspension for supposed dereliction of duty.
However, the print media refused to be overwhelmed by Rajiv’s uncharacteristic behaviour and backed the concerned police officer, describing his suspension as both an overreach and against the rules of the government. The late Prabha Dutt, who was the chief reporter of the Hindustan Times, took the lead and lambasted Rajiv Gandhi in her weekly Sunday column, “Follow Me Around”. Other prominent newspapers did likewise and Rajiv finally buckled under pressure and Pandit Hari Dev’s reinstatement was ordered. Incidentally, Hari Dev was one of Delhi Police’s finest officers and had helped in shaping the career of several of his seniors, some of whom rose to become commissioners of police.
The short point is that no public servant or functionary of any political party has the right to cross the red line. If they do, they should be prepared to face the consequences. Between us.