Raksha Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman tore into the Congress over Rahul Gandhi's ceaseless allegations against the Modi government over the Rafale deal while addressing the debate on the matter in the Lok Sabha on Friday. After issuing a point-by-point rebuttal to the Congress president over a number of the allegations he's made, she came to the topic of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Accusing Rahul Gandhi of shedding 'Crocodile tears' for HAL as part of his allegation that Anil Ambani's Reliance was unduly favoured over the state-owned aerospace company as an offset partner for the Rafale deal, she effectively asked what the Congress did for HAL's benefit when it was in power.
Here are her remarks on HAL:
"Rather than improving the performance, they go on giving them waivers? If you really care about HAL, you will invest in them, improve them, try to talk to experts to make them better -- you didn't do any of that."
"I want to now tell you. If you really wanted to do something for HAL -- during 2005 and 2014 you haven't done a thing."
"Here's a list of what we've done:"
"Following procurement orders are in the pipeline for HAL: 83 LCA Tejas fighters worth Rs 50,000 crore. 15 combat helicopters worth Rs 3,000 crore. 200 Kamo Helicopters worth Rs 20,000 crore. 19 Dornier transport aircraft for Rs 3,400 crore. Other helicopters, Rs 15,000 crore. Aero engines, Rs 8,400 crore. All of it totals Rs 1 lakh crore, which we have given for HAL. Who goes and sheds crocodile tears?"
"And you talk about Tejas capacity? Facts frighten them (Congress). HAL capacity of Tejas production has been doubled from 8 aircraft to 16 aircraft per year. All those who shed crocodile tears for HAL did nothing to scale it up."
"Order also for a further 40 Tejas fighter planed have been placed by HAL. Between 2010-16, the 40 they ordered, only 8 have been delivered. And nobody asked them, 'is there a problem, can we help you?'"
"There's a HAL in Amethi. Has the honourable member gone and seen and asked what is the problem? And he goes and sheds crocodile tears in Bengaluru?"
The minister was referring to the HAL Avionics Division facility in Korwa, Amethi.