Rahul Gandhi meets HAL employees, steps up attack over Rafale deal

Bengaluru: Rahul Gandhi on Saturday met with former and serving employees of the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL, amid allegations and counter-allegations over the Rafale fighter jet deal and its offset clause.

Scaling up his attack on Narendra Modi government, Rahul Gandhi has claimed that Dassault, the firm that makes the Rafale jet, had been pressured by the government to select Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence as its offset partner, instead of the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The government has rubbished Gandhi's claim.

Gandhi, who is "standing in support" of HAL, met and interacted with the employees of the public sector unit outside its headquarters in Bengaluru.

"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," Gandhi said at the meeting.

"The work you've done for this country is tremendous and the country owes a debt to you," he 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," the Congress president said.

The Congress on its Twitter handle also shared excerpts from the meeting as well as comments made by former and current HAL employees.The Congress chief earlier said there was a need to "defend the dignity of India's defenders" as he accused the government of "snatching" the Rafale offset contract from HAL.

"HAL is India's strategic asset. The future of India's aerospace industry has been destroyed by snatching #Rafale from HAL & gifting it to Anil Ambani," the Congress president had tweeted ahead of his visit.

"Come defend the dignity of India's defenders. I am in Bengaluru to stand with HAL's employees. Join me outside HAL HQ," he added.

Rahul Gandhi has been attacking the Modi government over the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal accusing the prime minister of "corruption".

The Congress President also met with Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy in Bengaluru on Saturday.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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