Former Vice President Hamid Ansari on Tuesday said every citizen had the right to question the military and the government. In an interview to Tiranga TV, Ansari said it was the government’s responsibility to answer such queries.

Ansari was the vice president from 2007 to 2017. His comments come after much speculation and Opposition criticism for the government on the strike on Balakot, Pakistan.

Asked if it was anti-national or unpatriotic to question the military or the government, Ansari said, “Of course it is the right of any citizen to question the performance particularly on matters that relate to foreign policy and defence.” Since the Balakot strike on February 26, the government has criticised the Opposition for questioning its impact. “There is now so much of evidence available from credible bodies outside the country that you cannot brush it under the carpet.”

Asked about claims that India did not shoot down Pakistan’s F-16 plane, Ansari said: “If I have claimed that I have shot a tiger on a tiger hunt, surely I have to produce the tiger.” He said there was no harm in finding out answers to such questions in a democracy. “I don’t know the technicalities of the Air Force,” he said. “One side claims it has shot down a plane the other side says it has not shot down a plane then surely there is something which is in between.”

Ansari said fear was possibly being stoked to divert attention from the problems facing the country. “It has been taken over by a rhetoric of a certain kind which to a man of my generation is less than desirable,” he added.

He said the Narendra Modi-led government is “some distance away” from fulfilling promises it had made in 2014. He said the five years of Modi government was a mixed record and that the general perception was that it has let the people down.

The former vice president said he hoped legal action would be taken against BJP’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur since she admitted to participating in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. “Since all others who were identified as being complicit in that act have been charged, I suppose the legal process will now take this also into account,” he added.

Pragya Thakur is facing charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other sections of the Indian Penal Code in connection with the 2008 Malegaon blasts, in which six people died and 101 were injured. The Bombay High Court had granted bail to her in April 2017. She has made several controversial remarks after the ruling BJP announced her candidature in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.