Calling all those questioning the downing of Pakistani F-16 as part of “Congress’s Bhajan Mandali”, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said it is unfortunate to see a “lot of” Indians “doubting” the defence forces. She also rejected a US magazine report that claimed that Pakistan did not lose any F-16 jet in the aerial combat on February 27.
“There are a lot of people who are spreading misinformation. But it is sad that in our own country, we have a lot of people associated with Congress party’s “Bhajan Mandali” who are doubting and raising questions on what the defence forces are saying. It suits them,” Sitharaman, who was holding an interaction here said.
“What can we say about our own citizens who question our armed forces? I feel sad,” she said while responding to a question that whether the Modi government must make its stand clearer on the issue before the Lok Sabha elections.
“Yesterday, officials of the Indian Air Force had issued a statement and released electronic signatures, showing the type of the aircraft. It was a F-16 which our pilot had shot down. The evidence was shown. Earlier too, we had shown proof by displaying a piece of the missile which can only be used in an F-16 aircraft. The article that came in “Foreign Policy”… many people are voicing their opposition to the article. When I was coming here, someone showed me on social media that US officials are saying that they did not conduct any such investigation (relating to the F-16s owned by Pakistan),” the minister added.
During the interaction, Sitharaman took on Congress president Rahul Gandhi over the Rafale deal and said, “A person who is out on bail for financial misappropriation is calling the Prime Minister a thief, especially a person who has been in public life for 30 years and has been clean and has no allegations against him.. Nothing can be more outrageous.”
She also went on to ask Rahul to show evidence that PM Modi has benefited Anil Ambani Rs 30000 crore in the deal. “If you are shouting so much, then show us a piece of paper. I am challenging to show a piece of paper that shows Modiji has given away Rs 30000 crore to someone. If not, then stop your baseless claims,” she added.
When asked about the talking points that are yet to reach voters, Sitharaman said, “The biggest challenge for us is to counter fake news because I can say things based on fact related to health, farmers, women, MUDRA loans, but to counter an opposition that raises wrong points to counter every such point, will be our job.”
The defence minister also alleged that the Congress will crush the middle class while trying to fund the poor through the proposed NYAY (the Nyunatam Aay Yojana or the minimum income guarantee scheme) project. “The Congress party wants to crush the middle-class to provide relief to the poor. If they want to give something to the poor, please do, but is it right to burden the middle-class?” she asked.
“In the last five years, the Modi government has not increased any tax,” she claimed, adding that “without any tax increase”, the NDA government was giving more than the Rs 72,000 promised by the grand old party. “Does the middle-class want an increase in taxes?” the defence minister asked.