Rahul Gandhi at HAL: How do you feel about losing Rafale?

Mr Gandhi demanded to know why the order was being taken away from HAL when it had all the experience.

Bengaluru: Scaling up his attack on the government over the ongoing Rafale fighter jet controversy, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “helping businessman Anil Ambani by destroying the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited”, and destroying the “strategic asset” state-run aerospace company HAL.

Amid loud cheers, Mr Gandhi told HAL’s former and present employees, “Rafale is your right, you are a 78-year-old company.”

Speaking to reporters after his interaction with HAL employees at crowded Minsk Square against a huge backdrop of the Tejas fighter, within a stone’s throw of the HAL headquarters, Mr Gandhi said, “I am saying very clearly that corruption has taken place.”

Mr Modi helps his capitalist friend Anil Ambani whose group is debt ridden to the tune of Rs 48,000 crore, he said.

“Kickbacks have been exchanged. Rs 30,000 crore has been snatched from these (HAL) people and have been given to Mr Ambani. Youth of Bengaluru and country must know this, that thousands of superb skilled jobs have been snatched away from them to help Mr Ambani,” he said.

HAL is a strategic asset in aerospace, not an ordinary or regular company, he said.

Snapping at a question on the UPA’s role in the deal, Mr Gandhi said, “When the UPA was signing the deal, the HAL was very much part of the contract proposal.” Cleverly evading direct response on the future of contract between Dassault with the Ambani, he quickly added that if the UPA comes to power, the Congress will always protect interests of nation building institutes like HAL.

Mr Gandhi told reporters that defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman talked about lack of experience of HAL, but had not said anything about the lack of experience of Mr Ambani, “who has never built a plane in his life”.

”HAL has no debt, he has Rs 45,000 crore of debt. HAL has been working for 78 years. His company has been working for 12 days. So she has no comment about the person who got the contract. She has to comment about HAL’s experience,” he said.

Mr Gandhi demanded to know why the order was being taken away from HAL when it had all the experience. “Why hasn’t the work been given to them? Why is HAL being destroyed by Anil Ambani... that is the question.”

”By raising questions about capabilities of HAL and its employees, she has certainly insulted the HAL and its employees. Can we expect an apology from her on this, definitely no, as I know for the sure, that she will never apology for her unsavoury remarks on these nation building institution,” he said.

On alleged corruption, he said HAL is one of the “modern temples” of India and it was being destroyed “because of corruption that Narendra Modi is doing to help Anil Ambani. We are here to defend the people who are defending the nation. From the government, we have to defend HAL,” he said.

Mr Gandhi charged that Ms Sitharaman has gone to France just to cover this up. “She is lying, when she is talking about the Rafale deal. France’s former President has already gone on the record stating that Mr Modi himself and the Union government was instrumental in getting contract for Mr Ambani. Even the media in France has exposed the Dassault internal document, which clearly indicts Mr Modi and Mr Ambani. Therefore, Ms Sitharaman’s cover-up efforts may not yield desired,” he said.

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