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BJP politicising air strike by ‘throwing about numbers’ on casualties: P Chidambaram


Hyderabad | Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Tuesday accused the BJP of politicising the IAF air strike in Pakistan’s Balakot and said it was “throwing about numbers” on the casualties without any confirmation.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah had on Sunday claimed at an event in Ahmedabad that 250 terrorists were killed in the Indian Air Force (IAF) operation.

The Congress is not questioning the armed forces but the ruling BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “politicising” issue, Chidambaram said. The Congress had condemned the Pulwama attack and the government’s response of an air strike in Balakot was “praise-worthy”. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi was among the first to salute the IAF, he said.

“So, the Indian Air Force struck a target and the Air Chief says I achieved my objective of striking the target. No question. I accept it. I salute the Indian Air Force Chief. I accept it and I accept his word. Until then, there was no division or debate in this country,” he said.

The debate started when “people started throwing about numbers” on the casualties caused by the air strike, Chidambaram said at an interactive meeting on ‘Saving the idea of India’ organised by Manthan, a forum for public discourse.

“It is the numbers which have stirred a controversy,” he said, adding that the first figure was “thrown” at a private briefing without any attribution and then another number appeared on TV channels.

The former finance minister alleged that the different figures were given by various ministers of the government and BJP president.

“Why did you have to throw up a number. All you had to say was there was an attack on the CRPF convoy and Indian Air Force retaliated. We have struck our target and we have returned unscathed. Matter is over. You try to politicise it by these numbers and these numbers are boomeranging on the government,” Chidambaram said.

Talking about his book, a collection of columns, he said they deal with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the “decline” in economy and “undermining of institutions”.

“If you read the four columns on Jammu and Kashmir, only last year, a year before I said to the Manthan audience, I fear that we have nearly lost Kashmir. If you read the four columns in this compilation, you will come to the conclusion that we have lost Kashmir,” he said.

During the talk, Chidambaram alleged that every institution was being undermined by the current dispensation and even the Cabinet had become irrelevant. “The demonetisation decision was taken without a cabinet paper, cabinet note,” he said.

Alleging that an atmosphere of fear was prevailing in the country, he said the idea of India, of being a multi-cultural society needs to be saved. The country’s economy is weaker after five years, he said and also talked about the alleged weakening of the Reserve Bank of India.

“Investment is negative. Credit is negative. Savings (have) declined. Exports are negative,” he said.

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