Bengaluru: Congress president Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to meet employees of public sector aviation company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on Saturday in Bengaluru to discuss and mobilise support against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre over the controversial Rafale fighter aircraft deal.
“@INCIndia President @RahulGandhi will meet employees of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in #Bengaluru on October 13. He will be talking about the controversial #RafaleDeal, and will also address a party workers’ rally in the city," Eshwar Khandre, the working president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) said on Twitter on Wednesday.
The meeting with employees of the aviation major comes at a time when the Congress is trying to consolidate all non-BJP parties against the Union government over several alleged scams and purported instances of favouritism leading to loss of revenue and jobs in the public sector in favour of a few private companies.
The Congress, which is part of the coalition government in Karnataka with the Janata Dal (Secular), is hoping to use the Rafale deal, demonetisation, implementation of the GST and the crumbling rupee among other issues to target the NDA government in several upcoming state elections as well as next year’s Lok Sabha polls. While in Bengaluru, Gandhi will also have to address the growing dissent among his party men in Karnataka over the delay in cabinet expansion as well as finalising candidates for the 3 November by-polls for three parliamentary and two assembly seats.
The Congress maintains the NDA changed the original deal by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and is paying an inflated price for only 36 aircraft as against the original deal for 126 and has deprived HAL business available in the offset policy in favour of industrialist Anil Ambani.
Ambani-controlled Reliance Infrastructure Ltd has a 51:49 joint venture with Dassault, the maker of Rafale, called Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), which has an offset contract of about ₹ 30,000 crore for 36 Rafale aircraft.
The announcement by the Congress comes hours after a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, asked the Centre to provide details of the steps involved in the decision making process leading to the signing of the deal between India and France on 23 September 2016, valued at around ₹ 59,000 crore.
“The Supreme Court has asked for the #RAFALE decision making process. It’s quite simple really… The PM decided. The processes to justify his decision are yet to be invented. But work has begun. Ps. In this connection, Raksha Mantri is leaving for France tonight," Gandhi said on Twitter.
However, the HAL employees union says it will not have a representation at a political event. “We are not affiliated with any political party and as a union we will not intervene in this," said Suryadev Chandrashekar, general secretary and chief convenor of the All India HAL Trade Union Coordination Committee. He added that if employees wish to go on their own, they are free to do so, but the union will not be part of this meeting.
Reliance Group companies have sued HT Media Ltd, Mint’s publisher, and nine others in Bombay high court over a 2 October 2014 front-page story that they have disputed. HT Media is contesting the case