Rahul Gandhi kicks up a Rafale storm in HAL’s backyard

Bengaluru: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday promised employees of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) that the UPA would not allow private companies to thrive at the cost of a defence PSUs like HAL.

Speaking to a group of 100 HAL employees, including a few retired staff and several trade union leaders at the Minsk Square here on the country's Rafale deal with France's Dassault Aviation, which he claims reeks of corruption, Mr Gandhi said it was HAL's right to be involved in it. “It is your right as you are the only company capable of producing the aircraft. One should look at merit and make an objective decision. Based on that nobody would've chosen the other company," he said.

“I understand that you are pained and hurt. This is as important to me as any corruption. You feel insulted and I understand that you are hurt and I want to stand with you in your discomfort,” he declared.

Maintaining that the HAL was more than just a company to him as it had made tremendous contribution to the nation, he said,   “If somebody thinks they can build their future on your graves that won't be allowed. These companies (HAL, NAL, ISRO, DRDO etc.) are the temples of modern India and they are being destroyed and we (the Congress) cannot allow this. We fundamentally believe that defence interests can be protected only when the public sector is strengthened." 

Mr Gandhi said he was not talking about only HAL but also ISRO, NAL, DRDO and the like. "All these companies have ensured that we are protected and can sleep comfortably at night. We are going to fight for you,” he said. 

Recalling that former US president, Barack Obama had spoken highly of HAL, he wondered why it was not being shown the same regard by the Indian government. 

“Mr Obama says that India and China can compete with the US and HAL is one of the reasons,” the Congress president noted, adding, “If you ever need my support and anybody in the defence PSUs wants me to raise issues concerning them 24/7 I will be available to you. But this will not be easy as the forces against the public sector are well connected.”

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