Rahul to HAL staff: will take to streets on Rafale

Rahul to HAL staff: will take to streets on Rafale

Congress president Rahul Gandhi speaks to HAL staff at Minsk Square in Bengaluru on Saturday. DH PHOTO/MANJUNATH M S

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday chose the environs of defence undertaking HAL’s corporate office here to step up his attack on the BJP-led Centre on the Rafale deal, vowing to “fight on the streets of India” on the issue. 

“I’m saying very clearly that corruption has taken place, there are kickbacks, that Rs 30,000 crore has been given to Anil Ambani and snatched from these people (HAL). Their future and the defence of the country are being destroyed,” Rahul told reporters after spending over an hour interacting with HAL employees at the Cubbon Park premises near the company’s corporate headquarters at Minsk Square.  

The event was seen as Rahul’s attempt to garner support over the Rafale deal on the back of which the Congress has mounted an attack on the Modi administration ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Rahul has accused the BJP-led Centre of striking a deal with France to favour Ambani’s Reliance Defence, whereas the previous Congress-led UPA’s deal favoured HAL.

Ahead of the event, however, the Karnataka BJP launched a salvo at the Congress chief for “misleading” people on the Rafale deal.

Asked if the Rafale deal would be tweaked if the Congress came to power, Rahul said: “The question is not what will happen if the Congress comes to power. We are committed to the public sector and we believe in HAL. The question is, why was ₹30,000 crore given to Anil Ambani when all the HAL people here have given their life for the country. Why was the order taken away from them? Why is HAL being destroyed to help Ambani?”

He said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman “insulted, hurt and questioned” HAL for which she owed an apology. “The defence minister rushed to France to try and cover it up. But there can’t be a cover-up. The truth is coming out,” he said. “We will fight this on every street in India. We will stand with the HAL, with the Air Force and with every person to fight this.”

Rahul refuted Nirmala’s claim that the Centre had not proposed Anil Ambani as Dassault’s partner in the deal. “She’s lying. The ex-president of France has clearly said that Modi himself, the Government of India told him to give the contract to Ambani. Now, documentation has come out that Dassault was told, ‘if you want the contract, it has to go to Anil Ambani’,” he said.