Stepping up his attack over the Rafale fighter jets deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Monday launched a fresh salvo against the BJP saying the government is “undermining” Hindustan Aeronautical Limited and pushing it to a financial crisis. Addressing reporters outside Parliament, Gandhi said, “The strategy of the government is to weaken HAL, do not give it money and destroy India’s strategic capability and give a gift to Anil Ambani.”
Reiterating his demand for a “one-on-one with the prime minister,” Gandhi said, “Prime Minister Modi is scared of the Lok Sabha, he is scared of being questioned. That’s why he doesn’t come to the House.” He also accused Nirmala Sitharaman of “lying” in Lok Sabha. “Just give me 15 minutes with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I’ll prove it. Iss chowkidar ne hi chori ki hai. Nirmala Sitharaman has lied in the Parliament. She is more like Modi’s spokesperson. Nobody answered me when I asked why nobody seemed to have any problem with PM Modi’s interference.”
Earlier in the day, Gandhi on Twitter wrote: “”That HAL doesn’t have enough cash to pay salaries, isn’t surprising. Anil Ambani has Rafale. He now needs HAL’s brilliant talent pool to deliver on his contracts. Without salaries, HAL’s best engineers & scientists will be forced to move to AA’s venture.” He also quoted a media report that said that the state-owned defence PSU has come to a standstill owing to inadequate funds.
The Congress has alleged that Reliance Defence was named as the offset partner instead of the public company HAL in the defence deal on the behest of the Modi government.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel also accused the government of not paying the aerospace major for the products that it has already delivered and pushing the company into a financial crunch. “Very disturbing that Government has not paid HAL for products that have been delivered but paid foreign vendors like Dassault for products that are not yet delivered!” Patel said in a tweet. “As a result, HAL is a broke & is borrowing money to pay salaries. Is this Make in India? (sic),” he said.
On Saturday, the Gandhi scion quoted another media report that claimed that “not a single rupee of the said Rs 1 lakh crore has come to HAL, since not a single order, as claimed, has been signed till now”. The media report cited senior HAL management officials to back its claim. Accusing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of “lying” in Parliament, Gandhi said the minister should either place the documents in support of her statement in the House or resign.
In her defence, Sitharaman shot back with reports detailing the contracts awarded to HAL since 2014 when the BJP came to power. Addressing Lok Sabha on Monday, she said that company has signed contracts worth Rs 26,570.8 crore and contracts worth Rs 73,000 Cr were in the pipeline.
The war of words over between the Congress and the BJP Rafale has been going on for a week in Lok Sabha.