New Delhi: Stepping up its offensive, the Congress on Monday asked what was the basis for Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah's claim of 250 terrorists getting killed in Indian Air Force's air strike in Pakistan's Balakot and why was Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his government not giving the details of casualties.
Congress spokesperson R P N Singh also accused the prime minister and BJP leadership of politicising the air strikes and said Modi should apologise to the country for trying to portray the Indian force as being weaker without Rafale.
He counter-accused the BJP and its leaders of spreading misinformation and 'false propaganda' over the air strikes ahead of elections and said the people of the country would give them a befitting reply.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal also said that if Amit Shah is claiming 250 casualties of terrorists in the air strike, why is the prime minister not providing details of the number of deaths.
Singh said, "It is extremely shocking and tragic that the prime minister of this country is pointing fingers at opposition parties for questioning the Army or the Air Force.
"It is completely false, everybody knows that after the tragic Pulwama attack (in which 41 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in a suicide bomb attack) the Congress president and the Congress Party clearly said that we stand with the government, we stand with the armed forces and with the people of this country to fight against terrorism."
Referring to BJP chief Shah's statement that 250 people were killed in the air strikes, Singh asked, "Where is this number coming from and who is politicising this whole incident. Why is the prime minister not giving details and saying how many people have died in air strikes. Why is the government not confirming this."
He also said that a minister in the prime minister's council of ministers is claiming that the prime minister or the BJP leader have not claimed the number of deaths being 300. "Then where is the number coming from?" Singh asked.
Amid a raging debate on the number of casualties in the strike, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa on Monday said in Coimbatore that the Air Force doesn't count human casualties and it was for the government to provide details on the terrorists killed.
While there has been no official statement on the number of deaths, the government sources had earlier said up to 350 terrorists were killed, BJP president Amit Shah on Sunday put the toll at 250 and some media reports have said damage has been minimal, prompting opposition leaders to clamour for clarity.
The Congress leader said the prime minister has repeatedly pointed fingers at the Congress party and the BJP is repeatedly attacking the Congress and opposition for trivialising the bravery of our armed forces.
"Here is the Prime Minister, who says that the Air Force would have been much stronger if we had Rafale (fighter jets). We would like the prime minister to apologize for saying that.....
"The prime minister has tried to show that the Air Force is weaker because it does not have Rafale. We would like him to apologise for saying so because the Indian Air Force has always protected our skies and given a befitting reply, whenever it has been attacked by the Pakistanis," he said.
"We have seen posters of the BJP, which has a small photograph of Wing Commander Abhinandan (who was captured by Pakistan and later released) and a big photograph of Prime Minister Modi.
"Are we politicising it or is it the BJP which is politicising it? The people of this country will give them a befitting reply," Singh said.
The Congress leader said his party has continuously supported the bravery of armed forces and the Air Force pilots and will continue to do so. He alleged the BJP and prime minister Modi were rather spreading 'false propaganda' and disinformation against the opposition party.
To a question on Congress leaders Sibal and Navjot Singh Sidhu demanding proof and evidence about the Balakot air strike, Singh, "We have very clearly articulated what the Congress stand is.
"We are asking, from where this figure of 250-300-350 is coming out (about casualties), including which Amit Shah is announcing. We have seen people of the BJP campaigning in army fatigues. Are they politicising it or we are politicising it?"
On Rafale comments by the prime minister, Singh said, "... Even when he is sleeping, when he is eating, when he is speaking, he thinks about only Rafale, the Chowkidar (watchman), you know, what he has done.
"Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa very clearly stated that the MIG-21 Bison had the latest technology and can give a befitting reply to any aero plane of Pakistan and it actually did so."
Speaking in Gujarat on Monday, Modi hit out at the Opposition for questioning his statement that the presence of Rafale fighters would have given greater firepower to the IAF and said, "I said if Rafale was acquired in time it would have made a difference, but they say Modi is questioning our air force strike."
"Please use common sense. What I said was if we had Rafale at the time, then none of our fighter jets would have gone down and none of theirs saved," he said.
He also lashed out at those demanding proof of the February 26 air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Pakistan's Balakot and said his objective was to end terror while that of the Opposition was to remove him.