Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday met serving and former employees of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bengaluru and called the company a "strategic asset for India".
"The work you have done in this company for this country is tremendous. The country owes a debt to you for protecting us and for creating a scientific atmosphere," said Rahul.
"When Obama says that the only countries that can challenge the US are India and China, one reason is because of the work you have done. I've come here to listen to you," he further said.
"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," ANI quoted the Congress president as saying.
Taking a dig at the Narendra Modi government over the Rafale deal issue, Gandhi further said, "A very senior person in the government said that HAL does not have capacity. What about the person who got the contract? What capacity does he have?"
"I can see over 70 years of your work. I understand that you are pained and hurt. And this is as important to me as corruption or any other issue," Gandhi said. "I know the government is not going to apologise but on their behalf, I apologise to you," he added.
"It is ridiculous that the government says that HAL does not have experience," Gandhi said. He also said that the Congress Will support HAL if the party comes to power in 2019.
"This Rafale contract is your right. You are the only company in this country which has the experience to build that plane," he said. "HAL is the backbone of the defence forces. Logically, no one in the world can take the contract away from HAL," he added.
Gandhi also addressed reporters after meeting the HAL employees and said, "They (the HAL employees) said that for 70 years, they had been making aircraft. They are insulted and hurt that their hard work over the last 70 years has been insulted and questioned by the Government of India."
"They expect an apology from the defence minister," he said.
The Gandhi scion earlier said there was a need to "defend the dignity of India's defenders" as he accused the Narendra Modi government of "snatching" the Rafale offset contract from HAL and "gifting" it to Anil Ambani's company.
"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 tweeted.
Congress has been attacking the Modi government over the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal, alleging corruption and favouritism.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Oct 13, 2018 17:46 PM