Congress chief Rahul Gandhi today accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of not taking a break from public relations exercises even at a time when India-Pakistan relations were at their lowest point in decades, news agency PTI has reported.
"The Indian Prime Minister can't keep his public relations (exercises) aside even for five minutes, and that's the difference between him and us," PTI quoted Mr Gandhi as saying at a rally in Maharashtra's Dhule. "He tells the media that India is united after the Pulwama terror attacks, but then immediately targets the Congress."
According to the news agency, Mr Gandhi also accused PM Modi of misusing solemn occasions to target the Congress. "He did the same (engage in PR exercises) at the war memorial opening," Gandhi said, referring to the Prime Minister's criticism of the opposition party during the opening ceremony of the National War Memorial in Delhi recently.
The Congress chief asserted that his response to the Pulwama attack was very different. "After the incident took place, I appealed to all party workers to not politicise the issue because it was important for us to be united at that time of crisis," he said, claiming that the BJP "spreads hatred and violence" wherever it goes.
The Congress chief also accused PM Modi of "protecting" the likes of fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi, who is wanted by multiple agencies in India for loan fraud. "Modi refers to Mehul Choksi as Mehul bhai (brother Mehul) but calls you -- the people -- mitron (friends)," Mr Gandhi said, alleging that the Prime Minister was biased towards the former.
The opposition has repeatedly accused the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the centre of "politicising" the India-Pakistan situation for gains in the Lok Sabha elections, set to be held before May. A recent remark by Karnataka party leader BS Yeddyurappa that India's air strike on the Balakot terror camp will help the BJP win over 22 of the 28 seats in the state further strengthened their claim.
PM Modi has been under attack from the opposition since February 14, when 40 CRPF soldiers died at the hands of a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) suicide bomber in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama. The Congress claimd that the Prime Minister was shooting for a "self-promotional" documentary at the Corbett National Park back then, and had continued even after hearing about the incident. The allegation was denied by the centre.
Even on Thursday, various political leaders criticised the Prime Minister for organising a mega-video conference with crores of BJP workers at a time when Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was in the custody of Pakistan authorities. "I wud urge the PM to postpone this. At this moment, we as a nation, need to spend all our energies and time to get the IAF pilot back safely and to sternly deal wid Pak (sic)," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was handed over by Pakistan to India this evening and crossed the Attari-Wagah border around 9:20 pm.
(With inputs from PTI)