Rahul Gandhi. Photograph:( Twitter )
In an interaction with the serving and former HAL employees in Karnataka's Bengaluru, Gandhi said, 'This Rafale contract is your right, you are the only company in this country that has the experience to build that aircraft'.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi told the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on Saturday that the right to build the Rafale contract solely lies with them.
In an interaction with the serving and former HAL employees in Karnataka's Bengaluru, Gandhi said, "This Rafale contract is your right, you are the only company in this country that has the experience to build that aircraft".
Attacking Anil Ambani for the Rafale deal he said, "A very senior person in the government has said that HAL doesn't have the capacity to build Rafale. Well, what about the person who got the contract? What capacity does he have? I see can 78 years of your (HAL) work here".
He further said that the HAL employees expected an apology as they were insulted and hurt.
"(HAL employees) said that they are the most experienced and best company in India to manufacture defence equipment. They are insulted and hurt as their hard work and patriotism has been insulted and questioned by the Government of India. So the first thing is they (HAL employee) expect an apology from the defence minister for insulting HAL. We understand that she won't apologise. She comments on the lack of experience of HAL but she doesn't have anything to say on the lack of experience of Anil Ambani, " Gandhi said.
"We will fight this on every street in India, we will stand with HAL and fight this, we will stand with AirForce and fight this," he noted.
Gandhi further said that "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. The work you have done for this country is tremendous and the country owes a debt to you".
Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, M Veerappa Moily, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, former chief minister Siddaramaiah and Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy were present during the interaction.
Gandhi's interaction is part of his onslaught against the PM Modi government over the Rafale deal in which he has alleged that HAL was overlooked in the offsets contracts with French aerospace company Dassault Aviation, preferring Anil Ambani's company.
Congress, which has been accusing the government of benefiting Reliance Defence Ltd of Anil Ambani from the deal, has also been demanding answers on why the state-run aerospace major HAL was not involved in the deal as finalised during the UPA regime.
The party had been accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of snatching jobs of people of Karnataka by taking away the contract from HAL.
Gandhi had been saying that had HAL been selected in place of Reliance Defence, it could have generated employment to scores of unemployed youth in the state.
However, the BJP and Reliance Defence have dismissed all the allegations as false.
Modi had announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighters after holding talks with then French President Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.
(With inputs from agencies)