Even as the Centre issued a preliminary bid document for the disinvestment of Air India on Monday, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Dr. Subramanian Swamy strongly opposed the move. He described the government-owned airline as “family silver”. Calling the deal “anti-national”, Dr. Swamy warned that he would have to approach the court to halt this process.
Announcing the sale of a 100% stake in debt-laden Air India, the government has set the deadline for submitting Expression of Interest as March 17, 2020. As a part of the disinvestment, Air India would sell a 100% stake in Air India Express and 50% shareholding in AISATS, an equal joint venture between Air India and Singapore Airlines. The government-owned airline’s interests in entities such as Air India Engineering Services, Air India Air Transport Services, Airline Allied Services and Hotel Corporation of India would not be a part of the disinvestment transaction. As per the bid document, a debt of Rs.23,286.5 crore would remain with Air India and Air India Express at the time of closing of the disinvestment.
Incidentally, this is the second occasion on which the Centre has formally proposed selling a stake in Air India. In 2018, the government not only sought to sell 76% equity share capital of Air India but also invited the private sector to take control of the management. However, the proposal failed to attract any bidders.
Swamy has consistently advocated against the outright sale of Air India. In early 2019, he wrote to the Civil Aviation Ministry asking for Jet Airways to be merged with the national carrier, which he contended would help it regain its premier position. Subsequently, he proposed that the government should list only 49% of Air India’s shares on the stock market.
My solution to Air India issue is: list 49% of its shares on the stock market and restrict to Indian and OCI persons. 51% with government.— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) October 12, 2019