Congress on Friday found itself in knots over Rahul Gandhi's close aide Sam Pitroda raising questions over the casualty in Balakot and disapproving of the act of “sending planes off “ to Pakistan after a terror strike.
BJP went hammer and tongs with Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing Congress of “demeaning” Indian armed forces and siding with Pakistan.
The controversy brought back the spotlight on the national security narrative, which was working to the advantage of BJP and from which Congress was trying to shift focus and reorient the political narrative about issues like jobs and far distress.
Not surprisingly, the BJP went the whole hog and seized the issue to bring back the focus on the issue of terror and paint Congress as “pro-Pakistan”. The discourse just two months could substantially damage Congress prospects in Lok Sabha polls.
Not surprisingly, Congress hurriedly went into a damage control mode, describing Pitroda’s remarks as “individual personal opinion”.
“Scared of the stunning ‘Corruption Expose’ breaking this afternoon which implicates Senior BJP leadership, the ‘Chor Chowkidar’ is using his favourite diversionary tactic - Terror Attack Politics! But India will not be fooled by his rhetoric any longer!,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted.
Modi said that Pitroda's remarks indicate that Congress was unwilling to respond to forces of terror while BJP chief Amit Shah saying while Congress heart beats for terrorists, that of BJP beats for the tri-colour.
“ Difference between Opposition and BJP is clear. They suspect our army, we are proud of our army. Their heart beats for terrorists, ours beats for the Tiranga. This election, through the power of your vote, do a surgical strike on the Congress culture,” Shah said tweeting with a hashtag #JantaMaafNahiKaregi (people will not forgive.”.
Pitroda, the Chief of Indian Overseas Congress, who was very close to late Rajiv Gandhi earlier said that he would like to know more than “what did really attack. Did we really kill 300 people. I want to know” in Balakot and referred to foreign publications, which raised questions on the casualty claim of the Indian government.
He also said that if eight people come and do something, “you don’t really jump on an entire nation as it is naive to assume that just because some people came here and attacked, every citizen of that nation is to be blamed.” He said that even UPA government could have sent some planes to Pakistan after 26/11 attack but it is not done that way.
Later as the controversy broke out, he explained his remarks saying “asking a question does not mean I am against government's decision. That does not mean I do not support jawans. All I am saying is that can we get facts.” He said his statement was “twisted”.
Modi was unsparing in his criticism of Pitroda. “The most trusted advisor and guide of the Congress President has kick-started the Pakistan National Day celebrations on behalf of the Congress, ironically by demeaning India’s armed forces. Shame! Loyal courtier of Congress’ royal dynasty admits what the nation already knew- Congress was unwilling to respond to forces of terror. This is a New India- we will answer terrorists in a language they understand and with interest!”
Latching on to comments Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said “what Sam Pitroda shows believed that the step taken by the Indian government was wrong. This is not something that has been said even by the Organisation of Islamic Countries. Only Pakistan has said this. It is most unfortunate that someone who is an ideologue of the Congress party has said this".
He said this is “now an ideological battle” between those who want to defend India through all resources and strategy at their command and those who want to fight terrorism with kid gloves and their hands tied behind.