NEW DELHI: The CPI(M) on Monday hit out at the government over the sale of Air India to the Tatas, claiming that it was a “gift” to the group from the Centre and a “daylight highway robbery” of national assets.

Addressing a press conference here, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury alleged that the airline’s burden of Rs 46,262 crore will be left to the people of the country.

“The central government continues with its relentless loot of India’s national assets. The iconic national flag carrier, Air India, has been sold to the Tatas. This sale is tantamount to giving a free gift to the Tatas by the Modi government.

This is daylight highway robbery of national assets.

“The Tatas will inherit Rs 15,300 crores of debt, which will surely be restructured, paying the central government a mere Rs 2,700 crore for the national carrier, with all its core assets,” Yechury said.

The remaining debt of Rs 46,262 crore will be the burden of the government, which means the people will have to bear this, he claimed.

“However, all the assets acquired by Air India by its debt, including brand new fleet of aircraft, will be the Tatas’ property now,” Yechury said.

Replying to a question on an alliance with the Congress on the national level, Yechury said the final decision will be taken by the CPI(M) party congress.

“The focus is now to isolate and defeat the BJP and to maximise polling of anti-BJP votes. We will decide state-wise how best this can be done. The focus is on strengthening our independent ways. Find and rectify weaknesses,” he said.

Party sources indicate that the top leadership are divided over a nationwide alliance with the Congress.

During a politburo meeting, while leaders from Kerala were opposed to the idea, those from West Bengal contended that a united opposition cannot emerge sans the Congress.

At the press meet, Yechury also raised the issue of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, and questioned the government on the Centre’s promise of peace in the region.

The party said that the prime minister’s meeting with the leaders of Jammu and Kashmir in June this year with promises of erasing “Dil ki doori, Dilli ki doori” remains an “empty rhetoric”.

The CPI(M) leader also demanded the immediate sacking of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri incident.

“Justice cannot be delivered with his continuation as minster,” he said.

There is a large volume of recorded footage of the incident which clearly shows the “deliberate manner in which this brutality was executed”, Yechury said.

“The prime accused can be identified in this footage. The party demands the immediate dismissal of the minister and stringent action against his son on charges of brutal cold-blooded murder,” he added.