Rahul meets HAL employees; says, Country owes a debt to HAL

Congress president Rahul Gandhi interacted with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) employees in Bengaluru, amidst the controversies of Rafale deal. “HAL is not just a company. When India got independence, India built some strategic assets to enter some specific areas. HAL was to take us to aerospace. The work you have done to this country is tremendous and the country owes a debt to you”, Rahul said.

Gandhi successfully drove allegations against the government on Saturday  by showing new scopes of his protests from HAL to the alleged dismantling of the entire public sector undertaking ecosystem, which he said was the backbone of the country.

“If somebody thinks they can build their future on your (HAL) graves that won’t be allowed either. There is tremendous amount of experience you have and it cannot be destroyed in this manner. You are fighting for this and I want to tell you that we will also not allow it,” Gandhi said on Saturday.

The Congress president was in Bengaluru to extent the support for the Congress, which has led protests against Prime minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s decision to snub HAL in the around Rs 58,000 crore Rafale fighter aircraft deal.

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence has a 51:49 joint venture with French aircraft maker Dassault — Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL) — which has an offset contract of around Rs 30,000 crore for 36 Rafale aircraft.

Congress is trying to consolidate Opposition support against Modi in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Gandhi has led the Opposition’s effort on topics such as demonetisation, implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), rise in prices of petrol and diesel as well as a falling rupee among other issues to corner the government, hoping to reap rich dividends in next year’s general elections.

He criticized the defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman saying she had questioned the capability of HAL to build the Rafale but not that of Ambani, who got the contract despite his company being just 12 days old compared to the 78-year-old PSU. Gandhi questioned the rationality to give this deal to one who is in huge debt while we have efficient public sector undertaking institution.

Stating that Sitaraman had gone to France to ‘cover up’ the alleged scam, he said the Congress would take the protests to the streets, and even demanded an apology from the defence minister for hurting the sentiment of employees of HAL.

Shivalingaiah, the president of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe association of HAL, said almost 1500-2000 people in the aircraft division of the company, were sitting jobless due to lack of work for the PSU. Several trade unions would undertake two-day protest on January 8-9 against the government’s decision to dismantle public sector undertakings.  Rahul Gandhi on Saturday assured HAL employees, both former and current, that he would protect their future.