Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah on Saturday said Congress president Rahul Gandhi owed an apology to the nation, the armed forces and to the families of the soldiers who died in the Pulwama terror attack for questions that Congress leader Sam Pitroda raised about India’s recent air strikes on Pakistan, PTI reported.

Speaking to the media in New Delhi, Shah said, “I ask the Congress president to apologise for Sam Pitroda’s remarks to the country, the families of the martyrs and our brave soldiers.” He also claimed that the Congress had a “tradition” of playing “appeasement politics” before elections, and asked if “vote bank politics [were] above the blood of martyrs”.

In an interview with ANI on Friday, Pitroda, the chief of the Indian Overseas Congress, had questioned the government’s decision to launch an air strike across the Line of Control in response to the Pulwama suicide attack in which 40 security personnel were killed. “Naive to assume that just because some people came here [and] attacked, every citizen of that nation is to be blamed,” Pitroda had said. “I don’t believe in that way.”

Pitroda had also sought more details on the air strike and the number of terrorists killed in the attack. “If you say 300 people were killed, we all need to know that, all Indians need to know that,” he had said. “Then comes the global media which says nobody was killed. I look bad as an Indian citizen.”

In response, Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately criticised the Congress, claiming that the party was “unwilling to respond to terror”. Pitroda later claimed that he was “baffled” by the response to his statements, and clarified that he was not speaking on behalf of his party, but as a citizen entitled to know more on the air strike.

In his media address on Saturday, Shah criticised the Congress by claiming that it always plays down these comments by its leaders as individual opinions, but never takes action against them.