BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain ‘steals limelight’ from Sambit Patra with ‘cashless’ reply on HAL crisis, stuns journalists


BJP has faced considerable embarrassment because of bizarre comments made by its spokesperson Sambit Patra in TV debates in the recent months. The party was reportedly forced to sideline Patra after its electoral setbacks in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh last month. But, it seems Patra has now been replaced by Shahnawaz Hussain for providing comic value in live TV debates.

Shahnawaz Hussain

Hussain appeared on Aaj Tak channel recently to discuss the raging controversy over the poor financial health of government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL. The topic had gained momentum after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rejected Congress’ allegations of lying in the parliament. Sitharaman had said that the HAL had signed contracts worth Rs 26,570 crore since 2014 and orders worth Rs 73,000 crore were being processed.

But, this was immediately contradicted by HAL CMD R Madhavan, who painted a bleak picture of the company’s financial health. He told The Times of India. “Our cash in hand is in the negative, we’ve had to borrow close to Rs 1,000 crore as an overdraft (OD). By 31 March we’ll have minus of Rs 6,000 crore, which becomes unsustainable. We can borrow for day-to-day work but not for project purchases.”

When asked to react to the HAL CMD’s comments of the government-owned company having no cash in hand even to pay staff salaries, Hussain stunned everyone with his reply. He told Aaj Tak, “We are people of cashless economy.” Hussain’s response left even the Aaj Tak anchor stunned as he said, “Sir, we are having a serious discussion here.” But far from correcting his gaffe, Hussain continued, “Sir, it’s a serious discussion. What do you want? They (the HAL) should have cash in hand?”

A visibly shocked anchor sought to clarify further, “By cash in hand, the HAL CMD is talking about his inability to pay salaries to staff.” By this time, the Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera had held his head in utter disbelief.

An unfazed Hussain replied, “Even I understand this much of English. You don’t have cash in hand these days.”

As expected, Hussain’s gaffe became a topic of intense social media discussion as journalists and his political rivals began to lampoon the BJP spokesperson.

The controversy over HAL assumes significance in light of the Congress’ allegations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally involved in the scam over the Rafale deal since he gave a contract worth Rs 58,000 crore to his friend Anil Ambani by ignoring the HAL, which has a pedigree of building aircrafts.



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