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  India   Politics  06 Mar 2019  Balakot airstrikes: BJP, Congress dogfight over toll gets deadlier

Balakot airstrikes: BJP, Congress dogfight over toll gets deadlier

Published : Mar 6, 2019, 1:56 am IST
Updated : Mar 6, 2019, 1:56 am IST

A.K. Antony accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of sacrificing national interests and urged him “not to politicise” the armed forces.

A.K. Antony (Photo: PTI)
 A.K. Antony (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Controversy over the Indian Air Force’s airstrikes on JeM terror camps in Balakot and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and their death toll intensified on Tuesday as the BJP and the Congress locked horns over the issue. While the Congress demanded evidence for the airstrike at Balakot in which 300 terrorists were reportedly killed, the ruling BJP and Union ministers branded the Opposition party and those seeking evidence as “anti-national”.

Former defence minister A.K. Antony accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of sacrificing national interests and urged him “not to politicise” the armed forces.

He said it was unfortunate that at a time when the security forces are still fighting on the border, BJP president Amit Shah was giving out operational details of the armed forces’ action.

The Congress also accused the BJP of spreading “false propaganda” over the February 26 airstrike in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The BJP alleged that the Opposition party and its senior leaders were speaking the language of Pakistan and no country in the world has sought any evidence of the airstrikes.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh said in Guwahati that Congress leaders desperate to know the casualty in airstrikes may go to Pakistan and do the head count.

Mr Singh said that the number of terrorists killed in the IAF airstrikes on JeM camps would be known “today or tomorrow”.

Accusing the Congress of trying to lower the morale of the security forces for “petty political gains”, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Congress leaders’ comments on the Balakot airstrike are part of a “conspiracy” that has the blessings of their party president Rahul Gandhi.

Slamming Digvijay Singh’s tweet terming the Pulwama terror attack a “durghatna” (accident), Mr Prasad alleged that Congress leaders are speaking the language of Pakistan.

Referring to comments of former Union ministers Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram suggesting that they do not trust the Indian Army and the Air Force, Mr Prasad said, “No foreign country has sought evidence of the air strike”.

Mr Prasad cited news reports originating from Pakistan, including the one that spoke about presence of many ambulances on the site in Balakot, to assert that the air strike hit the terror camp.

Earlier in the day, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh was in trouble for describing the February 14 Pulwama terror attack as a “durghatana” (accident). After being trolled, he corrected it to “terror attack.”

Mr Singh had tweeted, “Doubts are being raised in some international media following the ‘airstrikes’. This is also raising questions on our government’s credibility.”

Trolled for referring to the February 14 attack in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed in Pulwama as an accident, Mr Singh tweeted again, saying there should be no doubt that the incident was an act of terrorism.

Calling Mr Singh and Mr Sibal “repeat offenders”, Mr Prasad said that the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister had earlier alleged that the RSS was involved in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and had questioned the killing of suspected terrorists in an encounter in Delhi’s Batla House the same year.

He also asked why Mr Sibal never sought proof when a “rogue element” raised questions at a London press conference on Indian electoral processes but is seeking evidence of the airstrikes.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar also lashed out at the Congress for “rubbishing the armed forces’ claims and questioning their strength”.

“It does not happen in any democracy that trust is not placed in the Army. Only the Congress can commit such a sin,” he said.

When asked about BJP president Amit Shah’s claim that over 250 terrorists were killed in the airstrikes, Mr Prasad said that the party chief would have gone by “estimation” and added that the real casualty can be even bigger.

The Congress on Monday had asked what was the basis for Mr Shah’s claim and why was the Prime Minister or his government not giving details of casualties.

Tags: indian air force, a.k. antony, jem terror camps