BJP wants clarity in Tata's airline business allegation

BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said media reports had stated that Tata Group had denied that any minister had ever asked Tata for a bribe in his bid to enter airline business.

"Even after the denial, we will appreciate further clarity in the Group chairman's stand on the issue", he told reporters here.

Tata had said in Dehradun that he did not enter the airline business as he was not comfortable with the idea of bribing Rs 15 crore to a minister years ago, as had then been suggested by an industrialist.

After taking over the reins of the group, Tata had tried at least on three occasions to pursue the aviation business and accordingly moved the government of the day in 1995, 1997 and 2001.

Recalling that Tata had in 1996 applied for starting a domestic airline with Singapore Airlines, Rudy said it was much before the NDA came to power.

"At no point of time the Tata Group submitted application for permission for airline business with Singapore Airlines when either Ananth Kumar, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain or myself held the portfolio of the civil aviation ministry", he said .

Claiming that it was during the NDA's rule that the aviation sector reaped the benefits of reforms, Rudy said under a policy matter, a decision was taken not to allow any foreign player in the airline business in India.

He said the thrust was on improving the health of Air India and Indian Airlines before merger.

The last time (2001) it was during BJP government's period when Tatas and Singapore Airlines withdrew as sole bidders for their joint bid for Air India, citing political opposition to the sale.

Rudy, who was the union aviation minister in 2003 during the NDA rule at the Centre, said that the process of privatising airline business in the country began during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

He said decks were cleared at that time for the private airlines to enter the sector.

It also paid dividends as low-cost airline business operationalised and Indigo, Go Air, and other cheap flyers came in business in 2003 making the aviation sector an affordable means of transportation.

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