Bengaluru: Congress president Rahul Gandhi will interact with working and retired employees of the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) on Saturday to muster support against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government over the controversial Rafale fighter aircraft deal.
The planned programme, however, has been significantly pared down after HAL issued a veiled threat to employees to not interact with any political persons. Congress had earlier said Rahul and the party’s state leaders would lead a padyatra to the HAL head office from Congress Bhavan, but that stands cancelled now.
The meeting with employees of the aviation major comes when the Congress is trying to consolidate all non-BJP parties against the union government over several alleged scams and purported instances of favouritism.
Gandhi has been unrelenting in his attack on the Centre for allegedly forcing French government and Dassault Aviation, the maker of Rafale jets, to hand over the offset portion of the Rs 58,000 crore defense deal to Anil Ambani firm Reliance Defence over HAL.
On Thursday, an internal document accessed by French publication Mediapart showed that it was “mandatory” for Dassault to sign the offset contract with the Anil Ambani firm to land the contract with India, a charge later denied by the firm.
The city police has allowed the party to conduct the meeting for about 90 minutes from in the Square circle, where a replica of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, built by HAL for the Indian Air Force (IAF), is showcased for the public.
“Rahul wants to know firsthand how the HAL employees feel about losing out the Rafale contract and how the company would make up for the loss of offset orders from the French aerospace major (Dassault Aviation),” Gowda said.
Though the company has advised its employees to stay away from the meeting as per the employment rules and service conditions, a few of them will meet Gandhi along with their retired colleagues and express their concerns over the deal and other issues.
“As the employment rules and service conditions do not apply to the retired personnel, we have no say in their meeting with Gandhi. Regarding working employees, some of them may meet him as union members of the HAL Employees Association,” an official said.