"Had the number of casualties (in the Balakot strike) been claimed by our defence officers, nobody would have raised questions. People are asking for proof because you (BJP) politicised it to reap political benefit," said Shankarsinh Vaghela, the 78-year-old "Bapu" of Indian politics.
"People have the right to ask questions on the surgical strike and air strike from politicians who claim that 200 terrorists were killed. This is a legitimate question for Amit (Shah, BJP president), who claims that these many terrorists were killed," he said.
Vaghela blamed the Narendra Modi government for failing to avert attacks in Uri and Pulwama. He said Modi should own up to the fact that that there was a failure on the part of his government.
Sitting at his office-cum-residence at his sprawling bungalow 'Vasant Vagdo' in Gandhinagar, the former chief minister told DH that "2019 is not 2014 and being anti-Modi is not anti-national."
"In 2014, they fooled everyone with their marketing strategy but it won't happen again," he said.
Vaghela is quite confident that the BJP will not get even 160 seats this election, not to mention the magical number of 272. He believes the NDA will short by a minimum of 100 seats.
"Congress will snatch at least 50% seats in the states it rules — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Karnataka. In states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the regional parties are going to defeat the BJP and the same will happen in the southern states as well," he said.
Vaghela had joined the NCP earlier this year after a controversial exit from the Congress when he was the leader of the Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly.
It was alleged that Vaghela had orchestrated the "mass exodus" of Congress MLAs at the time of Rajya Sabha elections.
When asked about this, Vaghela blamed senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, who had a tough time keeping the Congress MLAs together while contesting the Rajya Sabha polls, which Patel won after a high-voltage drama in August 2017.
Vaghela had started his political career with the BJP, then formed his own party and later joined the Congress.
Vaghela said, "it is the Congress leadership which is responsible for making Narendra Modi the kind of leader he is today."
He said the "Congress never wanted to form the government (in Gujarat)".
Referring to the 2002 riots, Vaghela said, "When they (Congress) had enough evidence (against Modi), they didn't dare to touch Modi. What would have happened had they put him in jail? I had said nothing will happen. We have seen popular leaders like Lalu (Prasad Yadav, former Bihar CM) and Chautala (former Haryana CM) in jail."
Referring to former CBI director R K Raghavan, who was appointed Indian High commissioner of Cyprus by the Modi government, he said, "People should ask why Raghavan was gifted the post of high commissioner."
Raghavan was the chief of a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), which probed nine major post-Godhra cases, as well as the allegations made by Zakia Jafri, who had blamed the then chief minister Narendra Modi and others for orchestrating the riots.
The SIT had given a clean chit to Modi and the others.