Assamese girls in traditional attire perform the Bihu dance in Boko on Saturday. Associated Press
The Congress on Sunday accused the Centre of stirring a row over the number of terrorists killed in the air strike by India on a JeM camp at Balakot in Pakistan.
Addressing the media here, former finance minister and Congress leader P. Chidambaram said: “After the air strike, Congress President (Rahul Gandhi) was first to say I salute the Indian Air Force as there was a statement by the military spokesperson saying that air strike did not result any civilian or military casualties.”
He said the matter should have ended there.
“And it is not the Congress or the opposition which started the controversy. The controversy was started when someone in the government privately briefed the press to say 300 or 350 militants were killed. And all the papers next day carried that number,” he said.
Chidambaram’s remarks came in response to a question over the opposition questioning the success of the air strike targeting militant camps in Balakot.
Chidambaram said even then the Congress did not react. “It is only when the foreign press started to question the number and not the air strike.” Attacking the Modi government, the Congress leader said: “What was the government’s answer? The answer was to abuse us, it ranged from 350 to 0.
“(Union Minister SS) Ahluwalia said casualties were 0 and someone in the government said it was 350. The controversy was kicked up by the government at a private briefing, they put out a number which was first questioned by the foreign press.
“Congress has saluted and complimented the air force for the strike,” he added.
The air strikes in Balakot were carried out 12 days after a suicide bombing on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama killed 40 troopers.
Rahul said voters have made up their mind to “change their ‘chowkidar’ this time” as he has proved he is “not fit for the job.”
“The chowkidar has exposed himself and people have realised he is not fit for the job,” Gandhi said at an election rally in Bihar’s Supaul parliamentary constituency.
“PM Narendra Modi has been trying hard but the people of the country will not allow him to become PM again,” he added.
“Now people know the reality and truth of the chowkidar. And the chowkidar is afraid of that truth. Chowkidar has realised that his place will be in jail whenever a probe is conducted in the Rafale case,” Rahul said.
He appealed to people to support Congress candidate from Supaul seat Ranjeet Ranjan.
Rahil Gandhi reiterated that only rich people keep a chowkidar not the poor including farmers, workers and labourers.
The Congress president said if his party is voted to power this time, it along with allies would provide annual income of Rs 72,000 to 5 crore poor people and 35 per cent reservation to women in government jobs.
He also promised to provide employment to 22 lakh youths annually. “These are not mere promises. After coming to power in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the Congress has fulfilled its promise of waiving farmers’ loans.”
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Saturday hit out at the Modi government for making false promises to people and ignoring the country’s farmers.
Campaigning in Wayanad for her brother, Rahul who is also contesting the Kerala seat in addition to his traditional Amethi constituency, she told a gathering that the Modi government has ditched the farmers but the Congress-led UPA government, if it comes to power, will take care of all their needs.
“In the five years, Modi has divided the country. He takes care of the rich and the mighty but ignores the needs of the huge farmer community in the country.
“The BJP said they will double the income of the farmers and would deposit Rs 15 lakh into the bank account of every person, but for Rahul Gandhi, justice and truth matters,” she said in Mananthavady, where she arrived in a helicopter after landing at Kannur airport.
“The Modi government has dashed the hopes of the farmers and has taken on the people who fought for their rights. The Congress will empower all of you and will never create any difficulty for you all,” she said at her public meet there.
After winding up her day, she will rest at a resort at Vythiri near here, and will leave Kerala on Sunday.
Indo-Asian News Service