‘Rafale Deal is Your Right’: Rahul To HAL Employees in Bengaluru
Escalating his campaign against the Modi government over the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Saturday accused it of destroying the state-run aerospace company HAL – which he termed as being India’s "strategic asset" – and told its employees that "Rafale is your right."
Giving a new twist to his high-pitch Rafale campaign, Gandhi sought to reach out to present and former HAL employees, alleging that "temples of modern India are being attacked and destroyed; we cannot allow it to be done."
The Congress president was speaking at the event held at Minsk Square near the HAL headquarters, after hearing the former and present employees.
He said it was "completely ridiculous" for the government to say that HAL did not have the required experience.
Gandhi told the gathering that he understood "deeply" that they were pained and hurt and "this is as important to me as any corruption or anything that has happened."
“People who have given their lives, people who have stood by this country are feeling emotionally upset because they have been insulted. I know that the government is not going to apologise, but on their behalf I apologise to you, even though I have nothing to do with it. I understand that that you are hurt and I want to stand with you in your discomfort.”Rahul Gandhi, Congress President
The gravamen of most of the employees who spoke was that HAL had the capability to make Rafale, but an attempt was being made to "dismantle" the defence PSU and the workers feel "hurt and let down," he said.
Gandhi said the work done by HAL for the country was tremendous and the country owed a debt to it for "protecting us" and creating a scientific vision.
“DEFENCE MINISTER MUST ANSWER”
Speaking to reporters after the event, Gandhi said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman talked about lack of experience of HAL, but had said nothing about the lack of experience of Anil Ambani, "who has been never built a plane in his life."
Gandhi demanded to know why the order was being taken away from HAL when it had all the experience.
"Why hasn't the work being given to them? Why is HAL being destroyed by Anil Ambani...that is the question.”
He said the employees felt hurt over the fact that their hard work over the last 78 years, their patriotism, has been insulted and questioned by the government through the Defence Minister.
"So the first thing is that they expect an apology from the Defence Minister for insulting HAL. We understand that the Defence Minister is not going to apologise," he said.
“HAL IS ONE OF THE MODERN TEMPLES OF INDIA”
On alleged corruption, he said HAL was one of the "modern temples" of India and it was being destroyed "because of corruption that Narendra Modi is doing to help Anil Ambani.
Referring to the HAL interaction, he said:
HAL ISSUED AN INTERNAL COMMUNICATION TO EMPLOYEES AHEAD OF GANDHI’S VISIT
Ahead of Gandhi's interaction, HAL had issued an internal communication to its employees Friday, 12 October, as a reminder on their obligations on conduct and discipline in the interest of the company.
The HAL employees union said an interaction was sought with the employees, but they decided to not take part as the union was apolitical.
"We got a communication from the Congress office, but we can't take sides for a political party, being government employees. Our union is an independent union, we are not affiliated to any political party," the union's general secretary Suryadevara Chandra Shekhar said.
Karnataka state Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao said the discussion was not organised by Congress, but by "some people", including some ex-employees, who are "pained" by the government's attempts to "ruin HAL's name".
Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, M Veerappa Moily, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara , former chief minister Siddaramaiah and Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy were present at the interaction.
The visit comes amid the ongoing developments in the Rafale deal, wherein Dassault Aviation has said that Reliance has a 10 percent offset in the deal for 36 Rafale jets.
Karnataka unit Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao had earlier tweeted about Gandhi’s plans.
RAFALE SNATCHED, GIFTED TO AMBANI: RAHUL GANDHI TWEETS
Earlier in the day, Gandhi had tweeted saying there was a need to “defend the dignity of India's defenders” as he accused the Narendra Modi government of “snatching” the Rafale offset contract from HAL and “gifting” it to Anil Ambani's company.
“HAL is India's strategic asset. The future of India's aerospace industry has been destroyed by snatching #Rafale from HAL & gifting it to Anil Ambani,” the Congress president tweeted.
“Come defend the dignity of India's defenders. I am in Bengaluru to stand with HAL's employees. Join me outside HAL HQ, at 3 PM,” he added.
BACKGROUND OF THE RAFALE CONTROVERSY
Gandhi’s interaction is part of his onslaught against the Modi government over the Rafale deal with the Congress president alleging that HAL had been overlooked in the offsets contracts with French aerospace company Dassault Aviation preferring Anil Ambani’s company.
The party has been accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of snatching jobs of the people of Karnataka by taking away the contract from HAL.
Gandhi had been saying that had HAL been selected in place of Reliance Defence it could have generated employment for scores of unemployed youth in the state.
However, the BJP and Reliance Defence have dismissed all the allegations as false.
Modi had announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighters after holding talks with then French President Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.
(With PTI inputs)