AI sale offer a desperate attempt to meet revenue shortfall: Opposition

Government only trying to profit the corporate world, says Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari

January 28, 2020 02:47 am | Updated 02:47 am IST - NEW DELHI

Photo for representational purposes only

Photo for representational purposes only

The Opposition parties slammed the Narendra Modi government's fresh bid to sell Air India, saying it was an attempt to meet the revenue shortfall by “selling family silver” without actually fixing the fundamental issues in the sector.

A fresh Expression of Interest (EOI) was issued on Monday, putting 100 per cent stake of Air India on sale. This is an improvement from the last EOI when only 75 per cent of stake was offered.

“The proposed sale of Air India is nothing but a desperate attempt to try and meet the revenue shortfall by selling family silver. There is no empirical evidence to show that the private airlines have performed better than the government ones,” Congress Lok Sabha member and party spokesperson Manish Tewari told The Hindu .

Quoting from a reply filed by the government in the Lok Sabha to a question put by him, Mr Tewari said, “The government had admitted to Parliament that since the open skies of 1992, 23 private airlines have closed down. Recently, you have the spectre of Jet Airways going belly up. Even Vistara airlines is posting a humongous quarter on quarter loss.” There are “serious structural issues” in the aviation industry, which the government was completely and absolutely incapable of dealing with.

By selling Air India, the government was only trying to profit the corporate world. “This sale of Air India is nothing but a crude attempt at selling valuable public assets for deep discounts to obviously favoured oligarchs with the intent of bridging revenue shortfall and I do hope for no extraneous reasons,” Mr. Tewari said.

There was need for a transparent valuation of Air India before it was put for sale. “Air India is a five lakh crore company and any attempts to sell it off must be preceded by a proper valuation, whereby the method of valuation and the quantum at which it is valued should be properly disclosed,” he said.

Swamy against sale

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, in a tweet, said that he could move court against the sale. “This deal is wholly anti-national and I will be forced to go to court. We cannot sell our family silver,” Mr. Swamy said.

Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri said Mr. Swamy's opinion is purely personal and not shared by the government.

The Left also strongly opposed the move. Communist Party of India's general secretary D. Raja said that till now the government was indiscriminately selling the public sector units and now following the same trend, it was selling infrastructure too. He accused the government of treating public assets as their own. “If there is some problem then it's with the administration of Air India. If it can be streamlined then it can be converted into a globally acclaimed airline. This government is committed to serving the interests of corporate houses,” he alleged.

Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha floor leader Derek O' Brien posted a video message on Twitter just minutes before boarding an Air India flight. “The government has decided to sell more family silver by selling 100 per cent stake in Air India. You can well imagine how bad the economy that more family silver being sold,” he said.

The Chairmanship of the Standing Committee on Tourism, Transport and Culture, which also studies the aviation sector, was taken away simply because of his party's opposition to sale of Air India, he said.

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