Hard to find 'bakra' to buy AI, says aviation minister Raju

While both Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the Niti Aayog have expressed themselves in favour of disinvesting in debt-ridden Air India, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said on Wednesday that finding a "bakra" for the national carrier may not be easy.

His choice of words was intriguing to say the least, since 'bakra' or goat in India signifies a gullible buyer or investor who is easily cheated.

Alternatively, it could also result in a much lower valuation for Air India when it comes to actual sale.

"There are hardly any bakras around, so to get one is difficult and businessmen are businessmen. There are limitations. One thing is for sure, the taxpayer's money cannot be committed for eternity. So, that is one problem. Failures are there on the financial front, so, there are problems and these will be attended to," he told a TV channel.

Raju's plain talk came when the interviewer asked him to comment on Niti Aayog's suggestion that half of AI's total debt of 52,000 crore be written off to make it more attractive for a buyer.

Raju said he did not want to speculate on possible buyers like the Tatas or Qatar Airways. "I am open to all ideas. I am not doing any speculation as of now ... all options are there. No option is ruled out, no option as of date is preferred. Let us see what comes out of it."