Modi himself questioning success of air strikes, says Congress

Updated 04 Mar 2019

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Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi. Congress has criticised Modi for botched airstrikes. — AFP/File
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi. Congress has criticised Modi for botched airstrikes. — AFP/File

NEW DELHI: A day after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the opposition of delaying the induction of Rafale warplanes into the air force, and suggesting the outcome of the recent outing against Pakistan suffered as a consequence, the Congress party asked on Sunday if the government was suggesting the mission had been unsuccessful.

The Congress said Mr Modi had himself “questioned” the recent “anti-terror air strikes in Pakistan” by his remarks that the country was feeling the absence of Rafale fighter jets as the results could have been different if India had these aircraft.

The party also said it had neither sought proof of such strike earlier nor was it asking for it now.

“The prime minister has himself questioned the air strikes. He said had the Rafale jets been there (with the IAF), the results would have been different.

What is the meaning of this?” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said during a press conference in New Delhi.

Asserting that the prime minister should himself explain what would have been different with Rafale jets, he held Mr Modi responsible for the delay in the induction of the French-made jets into the IAF by “cancelling” the earlier negotiations, The Hindu reported.

Mr Modi on Saturday hit out at the opposition for allegedly doubting the armed forces on what he claimed was an anti-terror air strike in Pakistan.

The prime minister said the country was feeling the absence of Rafale jets as the results could have been different if India had these aircraft.

“India is feeling the absence of Rafale. The entire country is saying in one voice today, if we had Rafale probably the result would have been different. The country has suffered a lot due to selfish interests earlier and now politics over Rafale,” he said at a media event.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday had accused Mr Modi of being “solely responsible” for the delay in arrival of Rafale jets. “Dear PM, have you no shame at all? You stole 30,000 crore (Indian rupees) and gave it to your friend Anil (Ambani). You are solely responsible for the delay in the arrival of the Rafale jets.” Mr Gandhi had said on Twitter. He added that Mr Modi was why pilots like Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman were risking their lives flying outdated jets.

Mr Modi while addressing a rally in Patna on Sunday severely criticised opposition parties for “questioning the recent air strike” in Pakistan.

Leaders of the BJP, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Lok Janshakti Party were present on the dais along with the prime minister.

Mr Modi said: “For the first time in 50 years, India was recently invited to the Islamic countries conference,” and “its voice was heard with respect”.

He did not say that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation had stuck to its position on Kashmir, decrying human rights abuses in India-held Kashmir.

“The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia too had come here and he increased the quota of Haj pilgrims to 2 lakh for Indian Muslims on my request. He also declared the release of 850 Indian prisoners arrested in his country on flimsy charges,” he said, apparently addressing Bihar’s electorally influential Muslims. “This reflects another example of our respect in world community, but it also reflects what Congress was doing when it ruled the country,” he added.

He listed several achievements of his government and programmes initiated for development in Bihar. He also thanked Bihar chief minister Kumar for “giving new direction to Bihar and taking it out from those dark days”.

“Today Bihar has got a better atmosphere for business activity,” he said.

Mr Kumar thanked Mr Modi for helping Bihar with several schemes and welfare measures. Mr Kumar and Mr Modi are sharing the dias after nine years. In 2010, they addressed an NDA rally together in Ludhiana, Punjab.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2019