Day after Congress claimed Rahul Gandhi will meet HAL employees over Rafale issue, state-run company denies knowledge of plan

As the Congress sharpened its attack on the Narendra Modi government over the alleged Rafale deal "scam", one of its planned exercises to corner the Centre seems to have fizzled out.

A day after the Congress claimed that party president Rahul Gandhi will meet employees of Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL), which it claims was sidelined in the controversial Rafale deal, the state-run company has said it had no information about the plan.

File image of Rahul Gandhi. Twitter/@INCIndia

File image of Rahul Gandhi. Twitter/@INCIndia

"There is no communication on Rahul Gandhi's meeting with the HAL employees in Bengaluru," Gopal Sutar, chief of media communications at HAL, told reporters on Thursday.

The party had claimed that Rahul was slated to meet HAL employees in Bengaluru on 13 October. Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Dinesh Gundu Rao had said Rahul will speak to employees of HAL about the controversial deal and also address a rally in Bengaluru.

However, later on Thursday, Rao tried to clarify that Rahul will not be meeting HAL staff exclusively. Rao told ANI that the Congress chief will be attending an event in Bengaluru, which has been organised to discuss HAL's contribution to India.

"It is not that Rahul Gandhi is coming to meet HAL employees. It is about HAL's contribution to India and on this topic there is going to be a discussion. In this program anyone can participate, ex-HAL employees, HAL employees, people interested in HAL developments or who have faith and pride in the company, can participate," he was quoted as saying by ANI.

Rao's statement comes even as India Today reported that his meeting with HAL employees had been cancelled.

The Congress, which has been accusing the government of "benefiting the Reliance Defence Ltd of Anil Ambani" from the deal, has also been demanding answers to why the state-run aerospace major was not involved in the deal as finalised during the UPA's tenure at the Centre.

"HAL was given the Rafale contract to generate jobs. HAL had 70 years of experience, Anil Ambani had 10 days," Rahul had said.

The party had been accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of snatching jobs of the people of Karnataka by taking away the contract from HAL. Rahul 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.

The BJP has dismissed all allegations as false. Modi had announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighters after holding talks with then French president Francois Hollande on 10 April, 2015, in Paris.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Oct 11, 2018 19:32:27 IST

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