New Delhi : Wary of a political backlash, the government is unlikely to proceed with the stake sale in Air India before the 2019 elections, a senior official said on Tuesday.

“The government is of the opinion that the plan for going ahead with the stake sale before 2019 general elections may seem hasty, especially after no bids were received. The government in a recent meeting also decided that the airline should be first turned profitable before the stake sale procedure,” the official said.

The official said there is no urgency to divest Air India as the airline is making operational profits.

On Monday, a high level meeting between finance minister Arun Jaitley, interim finance minister Piyush Goyal, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and other senior government officials discussed the divestment in Air India.

This comes after the government failed to solicit even a single expression of interest to buy stake in the debt-laden airline despite extending the deadline by over two weeks. After withdrawal of interest by InterGlobe Aviation-led IndiGo and Jet Airways (India), and no response from any other airline, the government had extended the deadline to submit initial bids for 76 per cent stake in Air India to May 31 from May 14.

The government also wants to the airline to be listed on the exchanges for which it needs to start posting profits.

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