New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped up the attack on opposition parties on Friday calling them a “natural habitat of terror apologists and questioners of our armed forces".
Modi’s attack comes in the wake of remarks made by two opposition leaders—Sam Pitroda of the Congress and Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP).
The two opposition leaders had questioned the Pulwama attacks and the air strikes that followed, further stoking an issue that has become a key part of the political narrative of the Lok Sabha elections beginning 11 April.
Pitroda, the head of the overseas affairs wing of the Congress, questioned the authenticity of the air strike by the Indian Air Force on terror infrastructure across the border, and said Pakistan cannot be blamed for something a few people in the country do, according to a news report by ANI.
“Opposition insults our forces time and again. I appeal to my fellow Indians. Question opposition leaders on their statements. Tell them that 130 crore Indians will not forgive or forget the opposition for their antics. India stands firmly with our forces," Modi said in response to Pitroda’s comment.
There have been heated exchanges between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition parties over internal security, with less than three weeks for the first phase of polling in the Lok Sabha elections.
Seeking to raise his party’s electoral pitch on the issue, Modi used the hashtag #JantaMaafNahiKaregi (people will not forgive) while posting on Twitter.
“I would like to know more as I have read in New York Times and other newspapers, what did we really attack, we really killed 300 people? If you say 300 people were killed, we all need to know that, all Indians need to know that. Then comes the global media, which says nobody was killed. I look bad as an Indian citizen," Pitroda told ANI.
Pitroda also said that one cannot blame the entire country of Pakistan because “eight people come and do something" in the country, in reference to the Mumbai terror attacks.
Soon after Pitroda’s comments, several BJP leaders hit out at him and the Congress.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said that it is unfortunate that such people “are ideologues of a political party".
Pitroda, however, clarified his stand later and told ANI: “I just said as a citizen I’m entitled to know what happened. I don’t understand what is the controversy here. I am baffled at the response. It shows how people react to trivial matters in India".
Pitroda, a key face of the overseas department of the Congress, has been associated with the party for decades and has been instrumental in organizing party president Rahul Gandhi’s official trips abroad.
Yadav’s controversial comment at an event in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, alleging that the Pulwama attack was “a conspiracy to gather votes", was also criticized by the BJP.
“This was a conspiracy...But, when there will be a change of government, investigations will be done and prominent people who had pushed our youth to death to garner votes will come under the scanner," Yadav alleged, according to the Press Trust of India.
In a scathing attack on Yadav’s comment, Modi said on Twitter: “Opposition is the natural habitat of terror apologists and questioners of our armed forces. This reprehensible statement by a senior leader like Ram Gopal Ji insults all those who have given their lives in protecting Kashmir. It humiliates the families of our martyrs."