Congress blames Centre for Balakot controversy

New Delhi:The Congress on Sunday accused the Centre of stirring a row over the number of terrorists killed in the air strike by India on a JeM camp at Balakot in Pakistan.

Addressing the media here, former Finance Minister and Congress leader P. Chidambaram said: “After the air strike, Congress President (Rahul Gandhi) was first to say I salute the Indian Air Force as there was a statement by the military spokesperson saying that air strike did not result any civilian or military casualties.” 

He said the matter should have ended there. 

“And it is not the Congress or the opposition which started the controversy. The controversy was started when someone in the government privately briefed the press to say 300 or 350 militants were killed. And all the papers next day carried that number,” he said. 

Chidambaram’s remarks came in response to a question over the opposition questioning the success of the air strike targeting militant camps in Balakot. 

Chidambaram said even then the Congress did not react. “It is only when the foreign press started to question the number and not the air strike.” 

Attacking the Modi government, the Congress leader said: “What was the government’s answer? The answer was to abuse us, it ranged from 350 to 0. 

“(Union Minister S.S.) Ahluwalia said casualties were 0 and someone in the government said it was 350. The controversy was kicked up by the government at a private briefing, they put out a number which was first questioned by the foreign press. 

“Congress has saluted and complimented the air force for the strike,” he added. 

The air strikes in Balakot were carried out 12 days after a suicide bombing on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama killed 40 troopers. 

(With inputs from IANS)