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Oppn questions Amit Shah’s claim of air strike casualties

NEW DELHI: Seeking to put the government on the back foot, opposition parties Monday latched on to BJP chief Amit Shah’s claim of 250 casualties in the Indian Air Force’s air strike in Pakistan’s Balakot to ask how he got such top secret information.

The Congress asked the government what was the basis of Shah’s claim and why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not giving details of the casualties.

Congress spokesperson RPN Singh accused the Prime Minister and the BJP leadership of politicising the air strike and said Modi should apologise to the country for trying to portray the Indian Air Force as being “weaker without Rafale” and undermining its abilities.

He counter-accused the BJP and its leaders of spreading misinformation and “false propaganda” over the air strike ahead of elections and said the people of the country would give them a befitting reply.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal also said if Shah is claiming 250 casualties of terrorists in the air strike, why is the Prime Minister not providing details of the number of deaths. He cited several international media reports claiming “no proof of militant losses at Balakot” and asked Modi if those media organisations are “pro-Pakistan.”

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala referred to Union minister S S Ahluwalia’s reported remarks that the government never claimed to have killed 300-350 terrorists in the air strike and asked the Prime Minister to share the “truth” with the country. Referring to Shah’s statement on the casualties in the air strike, RPN Singh asked, “Where is this number coming from and who is politicising this whole incident.” “Why is the Prime Minister not giving details and saying how many people have died in the air strike. Why is the government not confirming this,” he asked.

The BJP hit back asking the Congress not to “mislead” the country and “insult” the armed forces with “fake and fabricated” stories.

Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the Congress and its allies are “crying” while terrorists and their sponsors are hit. “Is this a coincidence or a partnership? It is unfortunate that when the entire country is speaking in one voice to salute our armed forces’ valour, the Congress and its allies are raising such questions,” he said.

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati attacked Modi for his remarks on Rafale jets, asking why the BJP government at the Centre did not induct even one of these fighters into the IAF during its tenure.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said discrepancies in the casualty figures indicates that nothing on the air strike is based on facts and accused the BJP of politicising the air strike. He alleged that pictures of “martyrs” and Wing Commander Abhinandan were being used in poll campaign.

CPI leader D Raja accused Modi and the BJP of “demeaning” the armed forces and questioned Shah’s claims of casualties. He said it is Modi who is “demoralizing” the armed forces by dragging them into “dirty politics and controversies.” “If the air force chief is not giving figures and description of damages, then how come Amit Shah is giving figure of 250 casualties. Who gave him this figure. PM Modi should tell the nation and people,” he said.

Sharad Pawar of NCP said if the information on casualties had come from defence personnel, he would have taken it seriously.

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