Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal took an aim at the Narendra Modi government over planned wholesome privatisation of Air India, saying that a bankrupt government has no choice but to sell valuable assets to meet liabilities. The Centre on Monday set March 17 as the deadline for submitting Expression of Interest (EoI) by bidders wanting to buy Air India. The Centre has given ‘in-principle’ approval for strategic disinvestment of the national carrier by way of transfer of management control and sale of 100% equity share capital of the company held by GOI.
On this, Kapil Sibal, a vocal critic of Modi government's economic plans, said, "When governments don't have money, this is what they do. If in a household, daily expenditures couldn't be made what will they do? Sell off properties they have. Government of India has no money, growth is less than 5% & millions of rupees are outstanding under MNREGA. States have not been able to pay their share; there are no new allocations into MNREGA. This is the only scheme that can put money in the pockets of the common man so that they could spend that can give a fillip to the economy through consumption."
Kapil Sibal said that the government will sell all valuable assets India has to try to build funds for government spending. "It only shows that they have not been able to deal with the economy, perhaps they don't care anything other than politics and securing their own power."
In the latest attempt by the government to offload the bleeding Air India, which has been surviving on repeated taxpayer bailouts, bidding norms have been significantly relaxed in terms of debt and eligibility and has allowed individuals as well as consortium to bid for the airline.
In a relief to potential investors, the bidding consortia will be saddled with only Rs 23,286 crore of the total Rs 60,000-crore debt of Air India. As for eligibility, the lead member of a consortium can have 26% shareholding, down from 51% mandated earlier. The minimum shareholding in a consortium has also been eased to 10 per cent, potentially enabling more entities to bid as part of a consortium. The net worth for eligible bidders has been relaxed to Rs 3,500 crore from Rs 5,000 crore.
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Dr. Subramanian Swamy strongly opposed the move. He described the state-run airline as “family silver”. Calling the deal “anti-national”, Dr. Swamy warned that he would have to approach the court to halt this process.
(Image Credit: PTI)