After prayers by CM, it’s time for questions
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday tweeted prayers for Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s safe return but raised questions later in the evening on the pre-emptive air strikes on Pakistani territory earlier this week.
The evening comments assumed political significance as it articulated her stand against a war for “merely winning elections” and ended her virtual silence since Monday when she had issued a caustic statement against the Narendra Modi government over the Pulwama terror attack.
“We can demand to know, how many people died in the purported air strike (in Balakot); who died, what was the actual incident…? None of us knows the details that the people of the country should know,” Mamata said as she left state secretariat Nabanna around 6.30pm.
The Trinamul chief had been guarded the past three days amid signs of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. But sources in her party said she had been “extremely displeased” with the BJP’s attempts to extract political mileage from the current situation ahead of the upcoming parliamentary polls.
On Thursday, she decided to speak out shortly after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in the afternoon that the captured fighter pilot would be released on Friday.
“We don’t want a war out of political needs. If there is a war for the nation’s needs, we are with the country. But not for political needs. For merely winning elections, we don’t want a war. We want peace,” Mamata, who had hosted a grand Opposition rally in January, said.
She also went after the media. “From day one, we heard on television, especially the national channels, that 300 people died, 350 people died, such a lot of things. We want to know, how much happened, what happened? Did anybody die at all? Where was the bombing undertaken? Did it at all land on the right place?
“Why mislead the people? What took place actually, we must know…. Nothing was done in five years, although Uri happened, Pathankot happened, nothing was done,” she said, citing two terror attacks on defence installations in 2016.
Earlier in the evening, Mamata’s first response after Khan’s announcement was a tweet on the captured pilot’s safe return to India. “Along with his family members and all our countrymen, we are anxiously waiting for the safe return of our pilot #Abhinandhan,” she tweeted at 4.57pm.
The tweet was in keeping with her stand of celebrating the air strikes on Tuesday, when she had said the IAF (the Indian Air Force) also meant “India’s Amazing Fighters”.