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Govt weakening HAL to benefit Anil Ambani, alleges Rahul Gandhi

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

New Delhi: Stepping up his attack on the Modi government over the Rafale deal, Congress President Rahul Gandhi yesterday accused it of weakening state-run aerospace major HAL and destroying India's strategic capability to benefit industrialist Anil Ambani.

Gandhi also hit out at Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, accusing her of "lying" in Parliament and evading his questions on the Rafale fighter jet deal in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress president's attack came after Sitharaman rejected "doubts" raised by the Congress on her statement on Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) contracts as "incorrect and misleading".

She said in the Lok Sabha that the government-run defence undertaking has been awarded works worth over Rs 26,000 crore and projects amounting to Rs 73,000 crore are in the pipeline.

The Congress and the BJP-led NDA government have been involved in a war of words after a media report claimed that HAL, grappling with low finances, was forced to borrow Rs 1,000 crore to pay salaries to its employees, for the first time in years.

There was another report that claimed "not a single rupee of the said Rs 1 lakh crore has come to HAL, since not a single order, as claimed, has been signed till now".

Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, Gandhi alleged that the government gave Rs 20,000 crore to France's Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale jets, even though it has not supplied a single aircraft.

"But why have HAL's dues of Rs 15,700 crore not been cleared?" Gandhi asked.

He alleged that it was "necessary" for the government to "destroy HAL because with a strong HAL, you simply cannot give the contract to anybody else".

"So you have to undermine HAL which is what the government is doing. They are saying HAL can't build anything, but Anil Ambani can. Anil Ambani has never built an aircraft in his life, HAL has built multiple different types of aircraft."

"The strategy of the government is -- weaken HAL, do not give it money, destroy India's strategic capability and give the 'gift' to Anil Ambani. That is the plan and that is what we are trying to thwart," Gandhi asserted.

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