Ajit Singh defends Jet-Etihad deal

New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh Tuesday defended the nearly Rs.2,000 crore deal between Jet Airways and Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad, saying the investment is important for India and opposition to the pact is politically motivated.

"Those opposing the deal are long on politics and short on facts," Ajit Singh told reporters when asked about the widespread opposition to the deal.

"It is such an important deal, the first big deal in civil aviation ministry. In terms of FDI, it is bigger than any other deal this year. There are so many dimensions to it," Ajit Singh said.

Some parliamentarians and political parties, including the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have voiced opposition to the deal and sought explanations from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"It seems now there is something wrong in this deal as well. We are not against FDI in aviation, but if there is a scam in FDI, we will oppose it," BJP spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said.

"The way the civil aviation minister is pointing towards the PMO and cabinet, the prime minister should clear the situation in front of the country," he said.

The BJP leader compared it with the alleged scandal in allocation of coal blocks.

A parliamentary standing committee headed by Communist Party of India-Marxist MP Sitaram Yechury first raised objection to the deal.

After that, senior MPs Jaswant Singh and Dinesh Trivedi and Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy also wrote letters to the prime minister over the deal.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has agreed to buy 24 percent stake in Jet Airways. The deal is expected to garner around Rs.2,058 crore ($379 million) for Jet Airways, which, the company said, will enable it to service its debts and provide passengers with better connectivity.

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