Rafale deal: HAL a 'strategic asset' says Rahul

Rafale deal: HAL a 'strategic asset' says Rahul

Gandhi's interaction is part of his onslaught against the Modi government over the Rafale deal in which he alleges HAL had been overlooked in the offsets contracts with French aerospace company Dassault Aviation preferring Anil Ambani's company. (Image: ANI/Twitter)

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has rushed to France to cover up the illegalities in the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday as he looked to intensify his attack on the BJP-led Centre. 

“The Defence Minister has rushed to France...she is trying to cover it up, but she can’t. We will fight this on the streets of India,” Gandhi told reporters after an interactive meet with HAL staffers in Bengaluru. 

“The ex-president of France has said it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who chose Anil Ambani for the deal. Now, documents from Dassault have also come out to show how the deal was done,” Gandhi added. 

Gandhi spent over an hour in Cubbon Park listening to former employees of HAL. The event was seen as Gandhi’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 polls. 

“The question is not what will happen (to the Rafale deal) it the Congress comes to power,” he said to a media query. “The question is, why was ₹30,000 crore given to Anil Ambani when HAL had given its life to the country,”

During the interaction, Gandhi vowed to fight to protect the HAL and public sector companies in general. “These are temples of modern India that are being attacked and destroyed. We won’t allow it,” he said. He said he was interacting with the employees to understand how to make "this strategic asset" (HAL) more effective "so that when we come to power, we will do it more aggressively."

Several in-service employees of the HAL attended the event, which was held near the Defence PSU’s corporate headquarters at Minsk Square. However, only former HAL employees spoke at the event. 

During the interaction, Gandhi said, work done by HAL for the country was tremendous and the country owed a debt to it for "protecting us" and creating a scientific vision. "....HAL is a strategic asset in aerospace, not an ordinary or regular company," Gandhi added.

The Congress, which has been accusing the government of benefiting the Reliance Defence Ltd of Anil Ambani from the deal, has also been demanding answers on why the state-run aerospace major HAL was not involved in the deal as finalised during the UPA.

The party had been accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of snatching jobs of people of Karnataka by taking away the contract from HAL.

Gandhi had been saying that had HAL been selected in place of Reliance Defence it could have generated employment to scores of unemployed youth in the state. However, the BJP and Reliance Defence have dismissed all the allegations as false.

Modi had announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighters after holding talks with then French President Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.


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