India

‘Rafale is your right,’ Rahul Gandhi to HAL employees

Bengaluru: Escalating his high-pitch campaign against the Modi government over the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has asserted that his party would fight on the issue in ‘every street’ in the country.

Gandhi also accused the Modi government of destroying the ‘strategic asset’ state-run aerospace company HAL and told its employees that ‘Rafale is your right.’

Giving a new twist to his strident Rafale campaign, Gandhi sought to reach out to present and former HAL employees, alleging that ‘temples of modern India are being attacked and destroyed; we cannot allow it to be done.’

“Rafale is your right; you are a 78-year-old company. You have the experience to build the plane,” the Congress president said at the event held at Minsk Square near the HAL headquarters, after hearing the former and present employees.

“You have worked now for more than 70 years. If somebody thinks that they can build their future on top of your graves, that is also not going to be allowed,” he said.

He said it was ‘completely ridiculous’ for the government to say that HAL did not have the required experience.

Speaking to reporters, Gandhi accused defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman of having rushed to France “to cover up there, but cover up cannot happen because truth is coming out…”

“We will fight this on every street in India, we will stand with HAL and fight this, we will stand with Air Force and fight this. We will stand with every single person who is protecting India and fight this.”

Asked whether he was implying that there was corruption in the Rafale deal, he said, “I’m not implying, I’m saying very clearly corruption has taken place, kickbacks are there, Rs 30,000 crore has been taken and given to Anil Ambani and snatched from these people (HAL employees).”

Gandhi told the gathering that he understood ‘deeply’ that they were pained and hurt and “this is as important to me as any corruption or anything that has happened.”

“People who have given their lives, people who have stood by this country are feeling emotionally upset because they have been insulted. I know that the government is not going to apologise, but on their behalf I apologise to you, even though I have nothing to do with it.”

The gravamen of most of the employees who spoke was that HAL had the capability to make Rafale, but an attempt was being made to ‘dismantle’ the defence PSU and the workers feel ‘hurt and let down.’

Gandhi said the work done by HAL for the country was tremendous and the country owed a debt to it for ‘protecting us’ and creating a scientific vision.

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