Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) leader Sanjay Raut on Saturday questioned whether the 2019 Pulwama attack had been staged by the Centre with the aim of winning the Lok Sabha elections, reported The Hindu.

Several leaders of the Opposition have raised concerns after former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik claimed on Friday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi told him not to speak about lapses that led to the terror attack in 2019.

On February 14, 2019, an explosive-laden car driven by a suicide bomber rammed into a bus carrying CRPF personnel, killing 40 of them in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district. Pakistani terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Friday, Malik told The Wire that the attack took place due to the incompetence and negligence of the Central Reserve Police Force and the Union home ministry, which was then headed by Rajnath Singh.

On Saturday, Raut alleged that in 2019, several Opposition leaders had raised suspicions on the attack taking place only a couple of months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. He added that at the time, the Centre had called the Opposition traitors and accused them of speaking in support of Pakistan.

“People were aware at the time that some India-Pakistan incident will be manufactured for political gain,” Raut said, according to The Hindu. “Was the terror attack staged with the aim of winning elections? Was there a plot to get 40 jawans killed for political gain? We [Opposition] had repeatedly tried to ask such questions at the time but were silenced by the ruling party and branded as ‘traitors’.”

On Friday, Malik had claimed that the CRPF had asked the administration to provide aircraft to ferry their personnel, because “such a big convoy does not travel by road”. The convoy comprised 78 vehicles that were transporting over 2,500 personnel.

“They only needed five aircraft, but these were not provided to them,” the former governor told The Wire. “I told the prime minister on the same evening that this [the attack] took place because of our mistake. If we had provided them with aircraft, this would not have happened. But he asked me to stay silent about it.”

Meanwhile, Congress leader and Chhattisgarh Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel said on Saturday that the Centre must respond to Malik’s allegations, reported the Hindustan Times. “The matter is linked to the security of the nation and martyrdom of jawans,” Baghel said. “If the then governor has made such statements and accusations, then the Centre must reply to it.”

Congress MP and former Union minister Manish Tewari said that Malik’s claims were disturbing.

“If what the Former Hon’ble Governor is saying is correct it is very very disturbing to say the least,” Tewari wrote on Twitter. “It will play out very badly in the international arena.”

The Rashtriya Janata Dal said on Saturday that the “truth of Pulwama attack” was coming to light.

“The real face of fake and gimmicky Sanghi nationalists is coming to the fore,” the party wrote on its official Twitter handle. “Everyone is understanding why Pulwama happened before the Lok Sabha elections. ”