NEW DELHI :
Opposition parties including the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Monday criticized the Union government’s decision to invite preliminary bids for its entire stake in Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express, as well as its joint venture Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt. Ltd.
Opposition leaders sought to link the issue with the state of the economy and attacked the government for its handling of national assets.
“When governments don’t have money this is what they do. The government of India has no money, growth is less than 5% and millions of rupees are outstanding under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. This is what they will do. They will sell all the valuable assets we have," senior Congress leader and former Union minister Kapil Sibal told news agency ANI.
The opposition’s attack on the Union government comes just days ahead of the Budget session of Parliament where it is gearing up to raise the Air India disinvestment issue in both Houses.
“The government has decided to sell more family silver, to sell 100% of Air India. You can well imagine how bad the Indian economy is that more family silver is being sold...and we are against it. National carrier is being sold by desperate BJP government," senior TMC leader and Rajya Sabha member Derek O’ Brien said in a video message posted on his Twitter account on Monday evening.
The successful bidder for Air India will be required to absorb ₹23,286.5 crore of debt after the government transfers ₹63,113 crore of debt from Air India and subsidiary Air India Express Ltd, ahead of the national carrier’s proposed divestment. This is three-fourth of the accumulated debt of the two entities, the bulk of which is with Air India.
Criticism came even from a section of the BJP, with senior Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy threatening to go to court over the issue. “This deal is wholly anti-national and I will be forced to go to court. We cannot sell our family silver," Swamy tweeted on Monday morning. He also asked why was the national carrier getting sold instead of being strengthened.