Attacking the government over the Rafale fighter jet deal, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday, 7 January, accused the Narendra Modi-led government of weakening India’s own aerospace entity Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). He also alleged that India's strategic capability was being destroyed to benefit businessman Anil Ambani.
The Congress chief accused the Centre of bankrupting HAL, and not paying the salaries of engineers, even though Dassault Aviation – the French company that manufactures Rafale jets – had secured Rs 20,000 crore, Gandhi alleged.
Did PM Modi Make an ‘Exemption’ for Ambani?
Gandhi said on Monday, “The payment to Dassault was made over the objections of Defence Ministry officials, who had asked for (as is norm) Bank Guarantee from Dassault or a Sovereign Guarantee by France. Neither of which were provided. Did PM Modi make such a huge exemption for Double A?”
The statement apparently refers to Ambani, who is an offset partner in the Rafale deal. Congress has repeatedly claimed that the Ambani-led firm had secured a contract worth Rs 30,000 crore over the Rafale deal.
Questioning the government on Twitter, Gandhi cited a media report that said HAL had borrowed Rs 1,000 crore to pay its employees’ salaries as it has the lowest cash balance in 14 years.
“That HAL doesn’t have enough cash to pay salaries, isn’t surprising. Anil Ambani has Rafale. He now needs HAL’s brilliant talent pool to deliver on his contracts. Without salaries, HAL’s best engineers & scientists will be forced to move to AA’s venture,” Gandhi wrote.
HAL is Cash Strapped But Ambani Gets a ‘Gift’: Rahul
The strategy of the government is to weaken HAL, do not give it money, destroy India's strategic capability and give a "gift" to Ambani, Gandhi told reporters outside Parliament on Monday.
Gandhi maintained that the defence minister had lied in Parliament about the government’s involvement in the Rafale deal.
“I'm again requesting the Defence minister and PM Modi to answer ‘Did Air Force and Defence ministry senior officers object to your interference in Rafale deal?’ Please answer in a ‘Yes or No’,” Gandhi said in a tweet on Monday.
On Sunday, 6 January, Gandhi had accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of "lying" about procurement orders worth Rs 1 lakh crore being provided to HAL.
Moments later, Sitharaman hit back, saying it was a matter of “shame” that the Congress President was misleading the country on the issue.
While Gandhi challenged Sitharaman to place the documents as proof before Parliament, Sitharaman tweeted the details of the contracts awarded to HAL since 2014 when the BJP came to power.
(With inputs from PTI)