Taking the Rafale battle to the doors of HAL, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the Narendra Modi government has "insulted, hurt and destroyed" the future of the public sector company by depriving it of the offset contract with the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault.
In an hour-long interaction with about 100 former and present employees of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), he questioned the credibility and experience of the private company that got the Rs 300 billion offset contract.
Accusing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of "lying" to the nation and misleading the people, Gandhi said she has rushed to Paris to cover up the alleged irregularities in the deal.
"She (Sitharaman) has rushed to France to try to cover it up, but she can't. We will fight this on the streets of India," he said.
"A very senior person in the government has raised questions over the 'capacity' of HAL. I ask them as to what is the capacity of Anil Ambani's company that got the contract? The HAL's capabilities are all in front of us. You (HAL) have built HF-24, MiGs, Sukhoi and Tejas. The Public sector is the backbone of the country and the defence sector," Gandhi said.
He said it is "completely ridiculous" to say that HAL does not have any experience.
"Does HAL have debt? No. But the person who got the contract has Rs 450 billion debt," he added.
"You are the only company with the requisite experience to build that aircraft (Rafale). You are the people who built Tejas, MiG, Sukhoi. How can anybody say that you are not experienced?" he said.
Asked if the Congress would cancel the Rafale deal if it is voted to power in 2019, Gandhi said when the Congress comes to power at the Centre, its government would ensure that HAL gets more orders to make aircraft.
Referring to the HAL circular that had directed the employees to keep away from the interaction with him, Gandhi said the management must have been under "pressure" from the government but "we are fighting for you too".
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of Gandhi's interaction with the employees of HAL on the Rafale deal, the state-run aerospace company Saturday regretted 'politicisation' of its employees and termed it as a fad and regrettable development that would be detrimental to national security and the organisation.
An official from the agency told PTI that the NDA government has extended full-fledged support (to HAL), having placed supply orders of over Rs 273.4 billion during the 2014-18 period by recognising its premier position.
Towards improvement and upgradation of infrastructure, including ramping up of production facilities, funding to the tune of Rs 78 billion was sanctioned during the period, it said.
The official also said HAL enjoys pride of place in the defence and aerospace industry sector and has made an immense contribution to the nation-building process.
The party had been accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of snatching jobs of people of Karnataka by taking away the contract from HAL.