Senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy raised the red flag against the government's decision to privatise the national carrier Air India. Opposing the divestment process, Swamy said, "I will file a PIL saying that there is no public interest in this privatisation."

AI Divestment
Subramanian Swamy

The disinvestment department or DIPAM has invited an Expression of Interest (EoI) from potential investors for selling 100 per cent of the debt-ridden airline. 

Days before the launch of the bidding process by inviting Expressions of Interest (EoI) from potential suitors, Swamy has warned against such move, saying the issue was currently being discussed by a Parliamentary panel.

'I will file a PIL, no public interest in this privatisation'

Subramaniam Swamy Tweet

In an interview, Swamy spoke against the decision, "I will file a PIL saying that there is no public interest in this privatisation. My objection is that the nation needs Air India for several purposes and not just for commercial reasons. The whole concept of the public sector is not what government should or should not run. We are a welfare state, not a capitalist state."

"What is the problem with Air India? that it's showing losses and who is responsible for that? Why is it being subjected to government control? Reconstitute the way you run this sector and it will show a profit." 

The Air India plane flying the inaugural trip from Lucknow,
The Air IndiaHAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images

"The last time (2018) it was decided, I wrote to the PM and held formal presentations to stop the process.  During that time except for one member of parliament, everyone else was against this decision. Where is the mandate? I will go to court if they nationalise it. I am not in favour of them going through the process. I will not file a criminal case but a PIL. There is no public interest in this privatisation," he said. 

Right now, it (Air India disinvestment) is before the consultative committee and I am a member of that. I have been asked to give a note which will be discussed in the next meeting. They can't go ahead without that. If they do, I will go to court. They know that too," 

'If party embarrasses nation, I will stand for the nation, not for the party'

"Indian parents of people living in abroad prefer travelling aboard via Air India than any other airline. Even today the airports are packed with travellers of Air India. On being asked if he will stand against his party on the issue, he said, "If the party embarrasses the nation. I will stand for the nation, not for the party," Swamy said. 

subramaniam swamy

Swamy suggests listing 49% of Air India shares on stock exchanges

A vocal opponent of Air India privatisation, Swamy had earlier suggested listing 49 per cent of Air India shares on stock exchanges while the government holds 51 per cent in the carrier as an alternative to selling its entire stake to private companies.

Subramaniam Swamy Tweet

It has been reliably learnt that the Rajya Sabha member had expressed reservations over privatisation of Air India the meeting of a Parliamentary consultative committee earlier this month.

After its failed first attempt, the Modi government has shown great zeal this time to sell Air India. It is set to offer a sweetened deal to potential buyers this time around by removing a large chunk of the debt and liabilities from the airline books.

'Air India will shut down if divestment exercise not successful'

Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Civil Aviation Minster
Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Civil Aviation MinsterCredit: Reuters

Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had earlier said that Air India will be shut down, in case the divestment exercise is not successful.

Sources told that the preliminary information memorandum (PIM) inviting EoI has been tentatively scheduled to be unveiled on January 27. Air India is proposed to be sold along with its subsidiary Air India Express and ground-handling joint venture company Air India Singapore Airport Terminal Services Ltd (AISATS) in which it has 50 per cent stake.

Air India on January 10 came out with a tender for engaging aircraft asset management companies for carrying out a technical audit of its entire fleet. A Ministerial panel on Air India chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah on January 7 approved the draft EoI and a share purchase agreement (SPA) for the airline's disinvestment.

Air India flight
[Representational image]Creative commons

The deadline for submission of EoI for 100 per cent divestment in Air India and the airline's stake in low-cost unit Air India Express and airport services company AISATS is March 17, according to a preliminary information memorandum issued by DIPAM on Monday, January 27. India said that substantial ownership and effective control of Air India would have to remain vested with an Indian entity following the sale, limiting the scope of any foreign bidders interested in the asset.

In 2018, India had tried to sell a 76 per cent stake in Air India and offload about $5.1 billion of its debt, terms that potential buyers at the time viewed as too onerous. Air India, known for its Maharaja mascot, has some of India's most lucrative international and domestic landing and parking slots that are key for airlines.