Within hours of the horrifying attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, a political battle was triggered by the comments of Union Minister Jitendra Singh. Around 4 in the afternoon, an explosive-laden car driven by a suicide bomber, had rammed a bus in a 78-vehicle CRPF convoy. The resulting blast - deadliest in years -- has left around 40 people dead.
The attack has been far more devastating than the one in Uri, in which 19 soldiers had died in September 2016 when four terrorists had targetted a CRPF camp.
As political leaders, cutting across party lines, united to express shock and grief, Mr Singh, a minister of state for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office, made some remarks that were seen as critical of a section of politicians in the Kashmir Valley.
"It is a dastardly act done out of desperation," Mr Singh said during an interview to news agency ANI. "I call to question those who while living in India and describing themselves as mainstream Kashmir politicians, tend to be apologetic about these terror activities sponsored from across Indian soil," the minister was quoted as saying by ANI.
His comments drew a sharp reaction from the mainstream politicians of Kashmir. Former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, bitter rivals known for their tiffs on twitter, found themselves on the same side.
A caustic comment came from Mr Abdullah:
I'll give you a political reply to your drivel but unlike you I'll actually wait till the nation can mourn the sacrifices of its brave sons. https://t.co/2iiZR3B4ao— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 14, 2019
Ms Mufti, who till last June was an alliance partner, too, responded sharply.
"I beg to differ," Ms Mufti responded. "As MoS PMO, prudence deems it necessary that you enquire about the security lapse. Instead you're using it as an opportunity to berate us. No regard for solemnity of the occasion. Why discredit us when the fault lies in your refusal to address the problem?"
In the aftermath of the attack, most political leaders have expressed their anguish and issued messages of solidarity with the affected families.
The government has promised action. In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the sacrifice of the security personnel "shall not go in vain". Union Minister Arun Jaitley tweeted, "Terrorists will be given unforgettable lesson for their heinous act".
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