Technocrat-turned-Congress politician Sam Pitroda was at the centre of a political row Friday after he sought “more facts” and proof of the death toll in the Balakot air strike and, while referring to the Mumbai 26/11 attack, said one cannot “jump on an entire nation… just because some people came here and attacked”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tore into the Congress, saying it was a “shame” that Rahul Gandhi’s “most trusted advisor and guide” had “kick-started the Pakistan National Day celebrations on behalf of the Congress, ironically by demeaning India’s armed forces”.
BJP president Amit Shah, in a tweet, said: “Difference between Opposition and BJP is clear. They suspect our army, we are proud of our army. Their heart beats for terrorists, ours beats for the Tiranga. This election, through the power of your vote, do a surgical strike on the Congress culture. #JantaMaafNahiKaregi”
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, referring to Pitroda as “guru” of Rahul Gandhi, said: “Agar guru aisa ho aur uske vichar aise hon, toh shishya kitna nikamma niklega aaj is desh ko bhugatna pad raha hai (if the guru has such thoughts, imagine the incompetence of his student for which the country has to pay the price).”
Distancing the party from Pitroda’s remarks, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said “the expression of opinion by an individual has nothing to do with the opinion of the party”. The view of the Congress, he said, was that the Balakot strike was a shining example of the valour of the IAF. At the same time, he said, the Pulwama terror attack was a “national security and intelligence failure” of the Modi government. Read | US warns Pakistan: Another terror attack on India ‘extremely problematic’
In remarks to the ANI news agency, Pitroda, who heads the Congress overseas department and is a close friend of the Nehru-Gandhi family, had sought more information about the Balakot dead count. Saying he admired India’s security forces and “they did a super job”, he said: “If they killed 300, it is okay. All I am saying is can you give me more facts and prove it. That’s all. I am not debating anything. I am not even questioning anything. I want data because I am trained to believe in data.”
Noting that he did not know much about the Pulwama terror attack, Pitroda said “attacks happen all the time… attack happened in Mumbai Taj hotel and Oberoi hotel. We could have reacted then and just sent our planes. But that is not the right approach, according to me. That is not how you deal with the world. Because eight people come and do something, you don’t jump on the entire nation. It doesn’t work that way. It is naïve to assume that just because some people came here and attacked, every citizen of that nation is to be blamed. I don’t believe that way.”
“I would like to know a little more because I read reports in the New York Times and other newspapers. Did we really attack? We really killed 300 people? I don’t know that. As a citizen, I am entitled to know and if I ask, it is my duty to ask. That doesn’t mean I am not a nationalist. That doesn’t mean I am on this side or that side. We need to know the facts. If you say 300 people were killed, I need to know that. We all need to know that, people of India need to know that. And then comes the global media which says nobody was killed. I look bad as an Indian citizen,” he said.