Amid the strained tensions between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that India feels the absence of Rafale jets today. He claimed that its procurement had been delayed due to the self-interest and politics played by the Opposition. The prime minister was speaking at the India Today conclave in New Delhi.

He added that several Indians feel the result of India’s strike on Pakistan would have been different if only we had used Rafale jets.

Relations between India and Pakistan have been tense since a terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, and India has accused its neighbour of protecting terrorist groups. The attack was claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit.

India and Pakistan on Wednesday claimed that they had shot down each others’ fighter jets, a day after the Indian Air Force had struck a Jaish terror camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. India said Pakistan had attempted to target military installations in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday and confirmed a pilot of its Air Force was missing in action after the operation. The pilot was released on Friday night.

“Those who ruled the nation for many years had interest in two things,” Modi said on Saturday. “Doles and deals. The culture of doles and deals harmed our country’s development greatly. They had so many scams in their era. They began with jeeps and later graduated to weapons, submarines etc. In the process, defence sector suffered.”

Modi said the entire country “knows who every deal maker and middleman is close to”. “In our tenure, the corridors of power are also free from middlemen because this government will never tolerate any corruption,” he added.

“In 2009, our armed forces made a request for 1.86 lakh bullet proof jackets,” Modi said. “You’ll be ashamed to know that not one bullet proof jacket was obtained from 2009 to 2014. In our tenure, we brought 2.30 lakh bullet proof jackets.”

“You can oppose Modi if you want, but do not oppose the security interests of the country,” the prime minister added.

The prime minister claimed that the 55 months of Bharatiya Janata Party rule were in sharp contrast to the 55 years of rule by other governments. “We have a total approach, they had a token approach,” he said. “India has been battling poverty but they gave a token slogan – Garibi Hatao. How to achieve that was not specified.”

Modi also claimed that bank nationalisation was a token measure towards financial inclusion. “They did this in the name of the poor but none of them bothered to check if the doors of banks are open for the poor or not,” he added.

“If work has to be done, it has to be in totality, not with tokenism,” Modi said. “That is why our initiatives aim for 100%.” He listed schemes like Jan Dhan, Housing for All and Ayushmann Bharat to prove his point.

Congress hits back

Congress President Rahul Gandhi hit back at Modi, wondering if the prime minister had “no shame”. “You stole Rs 30,000 crore and gave it to your friend [businessman] Anil [Ambani],” Gandhi tweeted. “You are solely responsible for the delay in the arrival of the Rafale jets. You are the reason why brave pilots like Wing Commander Abhinandan are risking their lives flying outdated jets.”

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed that Modi’s speech was a “monologue by a narcissistic prime minister sans any accountability”.

“The prime minister is obsessed with one word – Modi,” he claimed. Surjewala alleged that it is the Modi-led government which symbolises crony deals. “The very edifice of the Modi government is – by the cronies, of the cronies, for the cronies,” he claimed. “A handful of Modiji’s crony industrialist friends have enjoyed Acche Din for the last 56 months.”

“Latest instances of Modiji’s cronyism are the Rafale deal and handing over of 5 out of 6 airports to his crony friends,” he added, according to PTI.

The Congress leader said Modi had blatantly politicised the sacrifice of India’s soldiers. “In last 56 months, 498 soldiers and officers have been martyred in Jammu and Kashmir alone,” Surjewala said. “In the month of February 2019 alone, 55 brave soldiers laid down their lives due to the menace of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. When will Modiji take decisive action against Pakistan-sponsored terror? Compromising national security and gross intelligence failure are the characteristic style of a non-functioning Modi government.”