Senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy today asked the government to defer stake sale in Air India to next year and also sought dropping of Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha from the government. His remarks come a day after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that the control and management of the national carrier should remain with an Indian player. He had also cautioned the government against “losing control and ownership of its skies”. “I welcome RSS sarsangh chalak Mohan Bhagwat’s timely warning on Air India family silver sale. My advice to Namo: Put off the proposal to post 2019 poll. Also drop Jayant Sinha,” Swamy said in a tweet today.
Messages sent and calls made to his office seeking comments on Swamy’s tweet did not elicit any response. Jayant Sinha’s father and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha has been critical of the central government, expressing his views through public events and newspaper columns. In an open letter to BJP MPs published in a daily, Yashwant Sinha today said that after nearly four years in office, “we seem to have lost our way and the confidence of the voters”.
In efforts to revive debt-laden Air India, the government has kicked off the stake sale process and has issued a detailed preliminary information memorandum wherein it has proposed to sell 76 per cent stake and cede management control to private players. Besides, the government has proposed to sell 100 per cent stake in Air India Express and its 50 per cent stake in equal joint venture AISATS.
In his first comments on the proposed Air India disinvestment, Bhagwat had said, “If the problem is that Air India has not been run properly, hand it over to someone who can do it and it should only be an Indian firm”.
Addressing a gathering at stock exchange BSE in Mumbai on Monday, the RSS chief also said that no country would accept losing dominance over its skies. Most of the Air India employees’ unions are opposed to the strategic disinvestment of Air India and have also started a campaign against the government’s decision.