- PM Modi was shooting a documentary on day of Pulwama attack: Congress
- Congress accused him of continuing filming even as news of attack emerged
- PM Modi has forgotten 'raj dharma' in his hunger for power: Congress
The gloves are off days after Rahul Gandhi declared that the Congress would fully support the government on the Pulwama terror attack and avoid any politics. The Congress today accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of shooting a documentary in the Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand on the day of the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber in Kashmir, and continuing filming even after news of the deadly attack emerged.
"The terror attack happened at 3:10 pm, but the Prime Minister was busy shooting for his promotional film till 6:40 pm. When the whole country was mourning the loss of lives of our jawans in the Pulwama attack in the afternoon, PM Modi was busy shooting for a film till the evening. Is there any PM in the world like this?" Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said at a press conference.
In his hunger for power, the Prime Minister has forgotten "raj dharma" (duty of governance), he alleged, turning to the phrase once used by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
BJP president Amit Shah hit back, accusing the Congress of playing politics over the Pulwama attack. "The Congress is making an issue of the events the PM was attending at that time. Say whatever you want, but the people of the country are not affected. He is very serious about national security and zero tolerance towards terrorism. With what face are you questioning the PM? The same party questioned the surgical strikes," he said at a rally in Andhra Pradesh.
On February 14, PM Modi was reportedly shooting for a Discovery documentary on his days in the Himalayas. "Modiji, alongwith the head of Discovery and its camera crew, was watching gharial (crocodile) during his boat ride. He had tea and samosa at 7 pm at a government guest house while the nation didn't eat. It is absolutely despicable and shameful," Mr Surjewala charged, stating that local papers had reported a minute-to-minute schedule of the PM.
"While the country was picking up the remains of our soldiers, the Prime Minister was busy with his propaganda and publicity," he said.
Government sources have rebutted the version, saying the PM "did not eat anything", spoke with the National Security Adviser and Home Minister about Pulwama and could not leave Ramnagar, where the shoot took place, as the chopper could not take off because of bad weather.
The Congress also attacked PM Modi on what it alleged is a watered-down joint statement with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who visited India after a two-day trip to Islamabad during which he pledged $20 billion to the country and called himself Pakistan's "friend in need".
Mr Surjewala referred to the Saudi joint statement with Pakistan stressing on the need for "avoiding politicisation of the UN listing regime". It was seen as a reference to India's efforts to have Pakistan-based Jaish chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist under UN rules.
"Declaring a terrorist is political? Did PM Modi not have the courage to ask a friendly country that they amend their statement and ensure that they help in getting Masood Azhar declared a terrorist," questioned Mr Surjewala.
The government hit back at the Congress, with minster Ravi Shankar Prasad saying, "The style may be different, but the content of what Imran Khan said and what the Congress said today bears a striking resemblance."
In the past, the Congress has also not been spared allegations of trivialising a terror attack. After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, then Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh of the Congress was accompanied in a survey of the terror-hit sites by his actor son Riteish Deshmukh and filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma.
Mr Surjewala referred to PM's comment that people should not point fingers at such a time, and cited a video of PM Modi (then Gujarat Chief Minister) criticising the Congress government on the 26/11 attacks.
The Congress broadside comes after Amit Shah targeted the opposition party in a rally after the attack. The BJP chief said that the martyrdom of the soldiers "will not go waste as it is a BJP government in power, not Congress".