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Rahul Gandhi may meet HAL employees in Bengaluru

The Congress is set to up its ante against the Rafale deal in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with Rahul Gandhi likely to meet the employees’ union of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited during his visit to Bengaluru on October 13.

india Updated: Oct 11, 2018 00:04 IST
HT Correspondent
Rahul Gandhi,HAL,Congress
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly been attacking the BJP-led government, accusing it of causing a “huge” loss to the public exchequer and endangering national security by sidestepping HAL in the Rafale jet deal. (PTI/File Photo)

The Congress is set to up its ante against the Rafale deal in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with party chief Rahul Gandhi likely to meet the employees’ union of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the state-run aircraft maker, during his visit to Bengaluru on October 13.

A Congress functionary familiar with the development said the venue of the meeting between Gandhi and the HAL employees is being finalised.

Congress spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy said HAL has been the biggest victim of the Rafale deal. “It employs 30,000 people. Because of the denial of the Rafale contract, they will be throwing out 10,000 people and they will be denying 10,000 jobs to new people,” he said.

Reddy, who heads a party panel of talking heads on the Rafale deal, said HAL is not only in Bengaluru but in various parts of India. “HAL would have benefitted in so many ways had it got the offset contract. It would have been able to absorb the Transfer of Technology and manufactured aircraft. Under the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) contract, HAL were to manufacture 90 aircraft, though, of course in technical collaboration with Dassault Aviation,” he said.

The Congress president has repeatedly been attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, accusing it of causing a “huge” loss to the public exchequer and endangering national security by sidestepping HAL in favour of Anil Ambani’s company, Reliance Defence, for an offset contract in the Rafale jet deal.

The Congress claims the earlier deal was scrapped and a new one signed just to provide Ambani the opportunity for an offset deal. Both the government and Reliance have repeatedly denied this.

Former HAL chief T Suvarna Raju had last month told Hindustan Times that the state-run plane maker could have built Rafale fighters in India had the government managed to close the original negotiations with Dassault Aviation and actually signed a work-share contract with the French company. Raju, who was heading HAL till recently, had also questioned why the Union government was not putting out the files in public.

Responding to the charges, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had blamed the UPA government for delaying the negotiations that resulted in the omission of HAL from the Rafale deal.

Gandhi again raked up the issue during his public meeting at Bikaner in Rajasthan on Wednesday, calling the Rafale deal the country’s “biggest defence scam” and attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Alleging corruption in the deal, Gandhi claimed HAL was ignored in the Rafale deal to benefit an “industrialist friend” of the Prime Minister.

The Congress chief reiterated his party’s claim that the agreement for 36 aircraft was finalised at a higher price compared to the cost negotiated by the UPA regime.

The National Democratic Alliance government has said that it cannot disclose the details of the price on two counts: a confidentiality agreement with France, and the strategic reason of not showing its hand to India’s enemies.

First Published: Oct 10, 2018 23:58 IST