Bengaluru: After HAL thumbs down, Rahul Gandhi’s meet shifted to Minsk Square

Bengaluru: Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s plan to embarrass the Modi government on the Rafale fighter jet deal by taking the battle to aeronautics major HAL, came a cropper on Thursday when the public sector undertaking declined to ‘host’ the Congress leader’s meeting with its employees.

The Congress party has been targeting the BJP led NDA government for treating HAL shabbily by making a company owned by business tycoon Anil Ambani which reportedly has no experience in the aviation sector, the offset partner for the multi-billion Rafale deal sidelining the Bengaluru based company. Mr Gandhi’s interaction with HAL employees, scheduled for Saturday was intended to be a launchpad for a fresh attack on the Modi government on how it was ignoring the PSU to benefit ‘crony capitalists.’

But with HAL coming up with a firm ‘no,’ the Congress was left with no option but to move Rahul’s interactive meet to Minsk Square near Cubbon Park instead of convention centre at HAL headquarters on Cubbon Road. KPCC president Dinesh Gundurao said Mr Gandhi will interact with HAL employees about the contribution of HAL. “Since the HAL Employees Association is controlled by a Left leaning trade union, employees associated with them have all the more reason to welcome Mr Gandhi for the interaction,” he said.

“During the interaction, Mr Gandhi is likely to elicit the opinion of employees about the Navaratna company getting a raw deal from the Modi government on the Rafale deal depriving them of jobs and high end technical work which could have come through if the previous UPA government’s deal on Rafale was implemented,” Congress officials said.

Meanwhile, reliable sources in HAL told Deccan Chronicle that the PSU had also asked its employees not to attend Mr Gandhi’s interactive meeting. If the employees heed the management’s request, the Congress party will have to settle for an interaction with retired HAL employees only, sources added. Mr Gandhi who will land in the city Saturday afternoon, is likely to spend an hour and a half at Minsk Square before returning to Delhi the same evening. The Congress party has cancelled the rally it had planned in the outskirts of the city.

Bone of contention: Rahul Gandhi’s interactive meeting with HAL employees is said to have become a bone of contention between the Special Protection Group (SPG) handling VIP security, and the KPCC. The SPG reportedly expressed its reservation over the venue asserting that a meeting at Minsk Square would throw traffic out of gear for more than two hours in this nerve centre of the city. Besides, Cubbon Park would be littered if Congress workers came in large numbers to hear Rahul, SPG officials contended.