Opposition parties on Sunday came down heavily on Aviation Minister Ajit Singh for stating that the government could explore the possibility of privatising Air India, and accused him of seeking to sell public assets without a proper and transparent policy in place.

Senior BJP leader and party spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said it was a sensitive issue and there was need for proper discussion before any formal decision was taken. “The Minister should not make off-the-cuff remarks on such important matters especially at a time when the time has come for the departure of this government,’’ he said.

Senior CPI leader D. Raja cautioned the government from taking this disastrous route. The government had promised to bring a civil aviation policy but did not do it even after so many years. He said, “It is undertaking privatisation in bits and pieces without taking Parliament into confidence. While equity was not being infused in Air India in accordance with the turnaround plan, the Airports Authority of India was also being systematically undermined.’’

Such decisions should be taken by the new government after 2014 elections. Mr. Singh has no moral right to take such decisions on behalf of the next government. The government had released Rs. 5,000 crore instead of the earmarked Rs. 8,745 crore to Air India in the last fiscal. The remaining amount had not yet been given, he said.

CPI(M) MP Tapan Sen accused the government of performing “anti-national activities” by considering privatisation of Air India. “The UPA government is politically inclined to sell the country. It is shocking that after spending over Rs. 5,000 crore to modernise about 40 airports, it is handing over the management of these airports to private parties on a revenue share basis,’’ he said.

CPI(M)-affiliated trade union Centre of Indian Trade Union denounced the Aviation Minister’s statement and reminded him that Air India belonged to the nation and was not the property of Council of Ministers.