Calling Hindustan Aeronautics Limited a strategic asset, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday accused the NDA government of failing to acknowledge the state-run aircraft manufacturing firm’s contributions while questioning its capacity to produce Rafale fight jet.
The Congress has been criticising the government’s decision to purchase 36 Rafale jets from France’s Dassault Aviation, with offset production benefits going to start-up firm Reliance Defence.
“The Defence Minister has commented on HAL’s lack of experience but has not said anything on the lack of experience of the gentleman who got the Rafale contract — Mr Anil Ambani, who has never built a plane in his life. HAL has no debt — he has debts of Rs 45,000 crore,’’ Rahul said after interacting with a group of former and present HAL staff.
Taking on Rahul in Puducherry, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi termed the Rafale row a “deep-rooted conspiracy” against national security and flayed the Congress, calling the party a “skeleton of corruption”, PTI reported.
During his interaction, Rahul Gandhi said, “For me, HAL is not just a PSU or any other ordinary company. When India got independence, it built strategic assets designed to enter particular spaces – IIT was a strategic asset to enter the higher education phase, the same way HAL is a strategic asset to take India into aerospace.”
Calling these institutions “temples of modern India”, the Congress leader said, “What is happening is that the temples of modern India are being attacked and destroyed…. The Rafale contract is your right because HAL is the only company in the country with the experience to build that plane. This kind of thing should be done on merit one should clearly see where there is merit —and make a clear, objective decision.”
He said, “Nobody in the world, if he is making a clear and objective decision, can take the contract away from HAL — logically. The whole country understands this.”
Rahul addressed a small gathering of HAL employees, who defied a circular issued by the company on Saturday against associating with political events.
In a statement issued later in the day, HAL regretted “politicisation” of its employees and termed it as a “fad and regrettable development” that would be detrimental to national security and the organisation, PTI reported.