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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Apr 2014

Ajit meets Sonia amid Jet-Etihad deal row

PTI  New Delhi, July 04, 2013
First Published: 13:27 IST(4/7/2013) | Last Updated: 17:18 IST(4/7/2013)

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi amid a raging controversy over the Rs. 2,058 crore deal between Jet Airways and Etihad on Thursday.

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However, the sources said the meeting was of political nature as Gandhi is UPA Chairperson and Singh's RLD is part of the ruling coalition. The issue of Jet-Etihad deal is understood to have come up during the meeting.

Objections were being raised by senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh, CPI's Gurudas Dasgupta, Dinesh Trivedi (Trinamool Congress) and Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy over the deal, each of whom had shot off separate letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) came out with a statement rebutting reports that there were differences within the government over the deal. The Government also said the equity stake sale matter was still under examination.

It asserted that there were no differences between Ministries over the air services agreement between India and Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways had on April 24 announced its decision to purchase 24 per cent stake in Jet for Rs. 2,058 crore.

On June 13, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) deferred a decision on the deal, saying it required more clarity on control and ownership structure of Jet Airways.

Jet chairman Naresh Goyal owns a 51 per cent stake in the airline. The Civil Aviation Minister had strongly defended the deal, saying those opposing it were "long on politics and short on facts".

"It is such an important deal, the first big deal in Civil Aviation Ministry. In terms of FDI, it is bigger than any other deal this year," he said.

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