'Rafale contract is your right': Amid row, Rahul Gandhi interacts with HAL employees
Standing in support of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday met the employees of the public sector unit outside its headquarters in Bengaluru.
Rahul Gandhi and his Congress party have been attacking the Modi government over the Rs 58000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal alleging corruption and favoritism.
Addressing HAL employees, Rahul Gandhi said, "HAL is not just a company. When India got independence, India built some strategic assets to enter specific areas, HAL is a strategic asset to take India into aerospace."
"The work you have done for this country is tremendous and the country owes a debt to you," Rahul added.
Further stating that when Mr Obama says there are only two countries that challenge the USA — India and China — you (HAL) are an important part of it, Rahul added, "I have come here to listen to you how this strategic asset can be made more effective and the type of difficulties you are facing."
Rahul also told the employees that Rafale contract is their right. "You are the only company in this country that has the experience to build that aircraft. A very senior person in the government has said that HAL doesn't have the capacity to build Rafale. Well, what about the person who got the contract? What capacity does he have? I can see 78 years of your (HAL) work here."
Before meeting the HAL employees, Gandhi scion said 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.
On Wednesday, a report in the French media claimed that Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, had to choose Ambani's firm Reliance Defence as its offsets partner in India as a trade-off for getting the deal.
The government has been insisting that it had no role in the Dassault's choice of Reliance Defence.
Dassault Aviation said in a statement that it has "freely chosen to make a partnership with India's Reliance Group".
Congress President Rahul Gandhi has demanded an investigation against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his role in the Rafale deal, alleging that he was a 'corrupt man' who helped Anil Ambani pocket Rs 30,000 crore in the purchase of 36 aircraft.
The joint venture, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), was created in February last year and the foundation stone for the plant was laid in October in the western state of Maharashtra.
Last month, former French President Francois Hollande was quoted by 'Mediapart' as saying that France was given 'no choice' on selection of the Indian partner for Dassault and the Indian government proposed the name of Reliance to partner with the French aerospace giant. The former French president's comments triggered a massive political row.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after talks with Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris. The final deal was sealed on September 23, 2016.
(with inputs of DNA)