Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday accused Congress President Rahul Gandhi of leading the Opposition to rely on “fake and manufactured issues”. In a Facebook blog post, Jaitley claimed that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government is contesting on a “pro-incumbency performance platform”.
The finance minister said the Opposition believes its “falsehoods” to be true. “It is a government with a leader with whom the comfort level of the voter is high,” he wrote. “The Opposition is in a state of panic. Its single point programme is a negative one - ‘remove one man’.”
Jaitley elaborated to dismiss the Opposition’s allegations against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s on the Rafale jet deal, Judge Loya’s death, bank loan waivers, fugitive businessmen Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, Electronic Voting Machine tampering, Goods and Services Tax Act and other matters.
Meanwhile, at an India TV event, Jaitley said the Opposition had scored a self-goal by demanding evidence of the targets killed in the Indian Air Force’s air strike on a terror camp across the Line of Control in Pakistan’s Balakot. “The Centre, unlike the previous governments, had political determination to counter the terror attacks,” Jaitley said. “We would have conducted the strikes even if the election was not close or the Pulwama attack did not happen, because the terrorists were being trained to attack India.”
The Finance Minister said he agrees with the Election Commission that images of soldiers should not be used on political posters but criticised the Opposition of harming national interest by questioning the attacks. “Questioning the strikes with the view to creating doubts in the mind of countrymen was self-goal or [they] shot themselves in the foot by doing this,” Jaitley said.
Opposition leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, had asked the Centre whether the air strikes were related to the General Elections. They had asked the government to share details about the strike.
The air strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26 were carried out in response to a terrorist attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14, which killed 40 soldiers.
A day after the cross-border strike, India and Pakistan engaged in aerial skirmishes. On February 27, the Pakistani military claimed it had shot down two IAF jets – one had crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir. India has maintained that Pakistan shot down one MiG-21 aircraft of the IAF while the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet during the dogfight. Pakistan had also managed to capture IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was released in a goodwill gesture and returned home on March 1.