Public-sector organisations are India's "golden birds" and the pride of the country, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said as she hit out at the government over report of the sale of Air India and Bharat Petroleum Corporation by March 2020.
"Our organisations are our pride. These are our golden birds'," Ms Gandhi-Vadra said in a tweet in Hindi. "The BJP had promised to build the country, but they are working to make India's best organisations hollow and sell them. Sad," the Congress general secretary said.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in an interview with The Times of India that Air India and Bharat Petroleum Corporation, two debt-ridden state-owned companies are expected to be sold by the government by March next year.
"We are moving on both with the expectation that we can complete them this year. The ground realities will play out," Ms Sitharaman was quoted as telling the daily. The Finance Minister's statement comes at a time the ailing national carrier is facing financial stress, sitting on a debt pile of around Rs. 58,000 crore.
For Air India, there is a "lot of interest" among investors, Ms Sitharaman said.
Recently, the cabinet approved changes in the process of disinvestment where the prospective bidders will be heard in roadshows before the expressions of interest (EoIs) are floated so that concerns of the prospective buyers are addressed.
Last year, the government had floated the Expression of Interest (EoI) for Air India to offload a 76 per cent stake and management control in the airline but it did not get a single bidder. The government currently owns 100 per cent equity of Air India.
Air India posted an operating loss of around Rs. 4,600 crore in the last financial year mainly due to higher oil prices and forex losses but the debt-laden carrier expects to turn operationally profitable in 2019-20, according to senior officials.
In the case of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), a group of secretaries had agreed for the sale of the government's entire 53.29 per cent stake in the company in October.
Bharat Petroleum has a market capitalisation of about Rs. 1.02 lakh crore. With the sale 53 per cent of its stakes, the government is hoping to mop up around Rs. 65,000 crore including any entry premium. That can take care of major part of the sell-off target.