Rafale is your right, Rahul Gandhi tells HAL employees

Rafale is your right, Rahul Gandhi tells HAL employees

Congress president Rahul Gandhi addresses HAL workers in Bengaluru on Saturday.

Despite an advisory from the management urging them not to participate, a section of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) employees, in uniform, turned up for the interaction with Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday.

There were just over a hundred participants at the event that was meant to discuss HAL’s contribution to India, particularly the defence sector. For the most part, however, the discussion revolved around the controversial Rafale deal and how “crony capitalism” resulted in the HAL missing out on the contract.

“Many couldn’t come due to pressure from the management. I understand that the HAL management may also be under pressure. But I want to tell the management that we’re fighting for you,” Gandhi said. “Rafale is your right. You are the only company in India that has the experience and capacity to build Rafale fighter jets.”

During his interaction, Gandhi said HAL was one of the many “strategic assets” the government built after independence. “I remember as a child people talked about how the GNAT (HAL Ajeet) defeated the Sabre F-100s. I can see the 80 years of work you have. If HAL doesn’t have the capacity, what about the person who got the (Rafale) contract,” he asked in rhetoric.

Several veteran ex-employees of HAL, who are now actively trade unionists, hit out at the Narendra Modi administration.

“The HAL has produced superior aircraft. Even the Russians have acknowledged our capability. We’re with you in your campaign,” World Federation of Trade Unions deputy general secretary H Mahadevan told Gandhi.

Shivalingaiah, president of the HAL SC/ST Employees Association, said HAL was being driven towards suicide. “The Aircraft Division has about 3,000 employees, but they’re jobless for the past one year,” he said.

Gandhi said the Congress was committed to protect their future. “I’m ready to support you 24/7. But this won’t be easy. The forces trying to take things away from you are powerful and connected,” he said.

The state Congress hopes that Gandhi’s focussed campaign on the Bengaluru-headquartered HAL could help improve its poll prospects in the city, which has three Lok Sabha seats - Bangalore North, Bangalore South and Bangalore Central - all currently held by the BJP.