Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Rajnath Singh during the unveiling of the light utility helicopter at HAL's helicopter manufacturing factory in Tumkur on Monday

PM Narendra Modi said the HAL’s new factory and its growing prowess has exposed several old lies, and those who made the false allegations

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday targeted the Opposition for its propaganda against the government four years ago in the context of the Rafale deal, stressing that the state-owned plane maker’s growing prowess and contribution to India’s self-reliance had exposed “the old lies and those who had made the false accusations”.

PM Modi’s comments, which were seen as a veiled reference to the Congress accusation that the government signed the Rafale deal allegedly overlooking the capabilities of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), came at an event to open HAL’s largest helicopter manufacturing facility at Tumkur in Karnataka.

In the run-up to the 2019 elections, the Congress then led by Rahul Gandhi escalated its attacks on the Modi government over the deal with French aerospace firm Dassault Aviation deal for 126 Rafale fighters, accusing the government of causing a “huge” loss to the public exchequer and endangering national security by sidestepping HAL.

“I want to remind you of a few things from some years ago. This is the same HAL that was used by some people to level different types of false allegations against the government. This is the same HAL whose name was used to hatch a conspiracy to provoke people, and hours and hours of Parliament were wasted. HAL’s new factory and its growing prowess has exposed several old lies, and those who made the false allegations,” Modi said.

A lie, no matter how big or spoken how many times or by any number of big people, is defeated by truth one day, he said. “The reality is speaking, and HAL is powering India’s self-reliance in the defence sector.”

The NDA government’s decision to enter into a ₹59,000-crore government-to-government deal with France to buy 36 Rafale warplanes was announced in April 2015 with the deal signed a little over a year later. This replaced the UPA regime’s decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by HAL using parts imported from France.

The Rafale deal had also become controversial on account of the fact that one of the offset deals signed by Dassault was with the Reliance Group of Anil Ambani. The Congress claimed the earlier deal was scrapped and a new one signed to provide Ambani with the opportunity for an offset deal. Both the government and Reliance repeatedly denied this.

Highlighting the strides made in self-reliance, Modi said from modern assault rifles, tanks and artillery guns to aircraft carriers, fighter jets, helicopters and transport aircraft; several major weapon systems were being made indigenously.

HAL’s Tumkur factory, spread across 615 acres, will initially produce the light utility helicopters (LUH) followed by light combat helicopters (LCH) and later the Indian multirole helicopters (IMRH). Modi laid the foundation stone of the facility in 2016.

HAL plans to produce more than 1,000 helicopters in the range of 3-15 tonne, with a total business of more than ₹4 lakh crore over a period of 20 years, the defence ministry had earlier said.

India has imposed a phased import ban on 411 different weapons and systems, including different types of helicopters, during the three years to boost self-reliance in the defence sector. These are expected to be indigenised in phases over the next five to six years.