Scaling up the offensive against the government over Pathankot terror attack, the Congress on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fix responsibility for the ‘grave security lapse’ and suggested that some heads must roll.
"They should realise that it has gone wrong and resignations should happen. If there is a lapse, resignations should happen," former home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters at the All India Congress Committee briefing when repeatedly asked whether the Congress is demanding resignation of Home Minister Rajnath Singh or Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar into the matter.
"This government has totally failed. It has no system in place to protect the nation," he added.
AICC Communication Department chairman Randeep Surjewala also said that the prime minister should fix the responsibility and take action against the home and defence ministers.
"First responsibility is of the prime minister as he is the head of the government. Then defence minister and home minister are also responsible as they deal with the matter. The prime minister should act decisively and not merely talk. The PM should fix responsibility for this negligence and he reaches to the same conclusion that the nation has arrived at that there has been a huge lapse in the nation's security, he should then take action against the defence minister and the home minister," Surjewala said.
The party asked will the prime minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party government explain as to who is responsible for ‘grave security lapse’ as terrorists managed to reach Pathankot Air Base despite advance intelligence alert and reporting of prior incident.
Accusing the government of having ‘totally failed’ on the security front, the Congress leaders played out video clips of Modi favouring a tough approach to deal with Pakistan and slamming the United Progressive Alliance government's handling of Pakistan affairs before the Lok Sabha polls.
Wondering why the National Democratic Alliance government is 'soft on Pakistan' over the Pathankot attack, the Congress leaders asked why the BJP government, led by Modi, was 'shying away' from calling the Pathankot Air Base attackers as 'Pakistani terrorists', more so when they were loaded with firearms, explosives, clothes, shoes and logistic support from Pakistan with ‘handlers located in Pakistan’ as reflected by telephone transcripts.
Surjewala and Shinde also wondered why the Modi government has not lodged a formal protest till date with the Pakistan government, summoned their high commissioner and taken a decision to place the matter before international forums, so as to ‘expose and isolate Pakistan’ as a state that is ‘abetting and permitting its soil to be used for anti-India terror activities’.
Taking a swipe at the prime minister, Shinde said Modi used to say that UPA ministers were serving biryani to Pakistani leaders but what is happening now.
"He (Modi) himself went to meet Nawaz Sharif and after that Pathankot happened," Shinde said.
Shinde said if this government continued like this, ‘then it looks like we may lose our country to terrorists’.
He referred to the strong remarks of Modi after the Mumbai terror strikes.
"In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi bitterly criticised the Congress-led UPA by mocking us saying stop writing 'love letters' to Pakistan and give Pakistan an answer in the language it understands. In fact, Modi held a press conference in Mumbai amidst the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack and criticised the then prime minister Manmohan Singh.
"One of the principal electoral rhetoric of Modi always was that there have been enough attacks on the border and it is time for Modi government now (bahut hua seema par waar; Abki baar Modi sarkaar). We have seen Modi ji’s view on 26/11 attacks. We have seen what were his demands at that time. We hope that he introspects about what he had said in Mumbai," Shinde said.
He said there has been a 'rise' in the incidents of terror attacks since the NDA came to power.
"Four major attacks have happened during the NDA rule between 1999 and 2004. During NDA-I, there were hijackings, attacks on Red Fort, Jammu and Kashmir assembly and Parliament. Whenever the BJP comes to power, terrorism increases. In 1999, IC184 hijack happened. The then foreign minister accompanied the terrorists to Kandahar and released them. Since 1999, there is a belief that India has no strength. Terrorists think they can do anything and they will be released," Shinde said.
Alleging that timely action was not taken in the Pathankot attack, Shinde said that till coordination is not in place, such attacks cannot be handled.
"Pathankot is a sensitive area. When you received intelligence, you should have shut down all movements from airbase," he said.
"We can be friends with Pakistan, but we will not tolerate any terrorist attacks. What did Modiji discuss in Pakistan? We are in dark about what they discussed. Why did it take Pakistani PM Shri Nawaz Sharif five days to call Indian prime minister despite overwhelming evidence about citizenship identity, origin and handling of Pathankot Air Base attackers from Pakistan?" he asked.
The former home minister also rued that the BJP had raked up his 'Hindu terror' remark in Parliament and said that there was a rise in terror incidents after that and wondered if that was the case why a number of terror incidents happened during the earlier rule of the NDA.
Posing a number of questions to the Government, Shinde asked, "Why did the prime minister or his home or defence minister not take control of the entire Pathankot operation putting a clear-cut 'command and control structure' on the ground to lead the operation?"
"Why was Cabinet Committee on Security not called immediately by Prime Minister? Why were home and defence ministers fumbling and deleting tweets about Pathankot operation after being contradicted by the home secretary? Does it show a definite lack of coordination in the Union cabinet even in tackling an issue as serious as terrorism?" he said.
In a statement, the Congress said that during last 19 months of the Modi government, the country has seen 900 ceasefire violations on Indo-Pak Border with 19 jawans and 34 civilians having lost their lives.
'Even the Border Security Force has admitted that there have been 35 per cent hike in infiltrations from Pakistan in last one year. Six days after Modi’s sudden visit to Pakistan to greet Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday on December 25, 2015, a handful of Pakistani terrorists have dealt a severe blow to India’s national security establishment and counter terror strategy,' the Congress said.
Calling it an attack on India's sovereignty, honour and integrity, Shinde said it reflects a 'clear-cut failure' of political leadership of Modi as also the command and control structure’ to fight terrorism.
Noting that Pathankot has India's biggest army cantonment housing two infantry divisions and two armoured brigades, comprising of nearly 50,000 army troops, the party said the moot question is as to why were these troops stationed near Pathankot air base not used by the government to cordon off the air base as there was prior intelligence input after Gurdaspur superintendent of police was stopped by terrorists in Army fatigues.
"In reply, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar chose to shift blame by saying the Army cannot do civil duty. The area is so complicated and had a difficult terrain and blocking roads is not Army’s responsibility. Is the defence minister then blaming the Union home minister and Punjab Police for letting the terrorists infiltrate and enter the air base?" he asked.
The Congress leaders also faulted the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government in Punjab over the episode asking 'why couldn’t it act on intelligence and operational input that it received at 3.34 am on the night intervening December 31 and January 1?'
The Congress leaders said, "One is forced to wonder whether it is drug-linked terror and whether infiltrating terrorists used the same route, modus operandi and logistic support that drug traffickers use in active connivance with people in the administration of Punjab."
Replying to the Congress, the BJP said the security operation at the air base was ‘most successful’ and drew a parallel with the Mumbai attack in which terrorist killed over 164 people despite ‘intelligence inputs’ about its likelihood.
The BJP said that the PM 'conveyed the nation's anger' to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif when the latter called him up following the attack and reminded it that there was no such response from Pakistan after Mumbai attack.
"Modi has sought time-bound and serious action from Pakistan. Sharif assured him of cooperation. There was no response from Pakistan following 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai. The operation in Pathankot was a most successful exercise against a fidayeen strike. The Congress has no moral right to question the government. Its charges only show its mental bankruptcy," BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
In Pathankot, terrorists were confined to an outer ring and could not harm the assets of the Air Force, he said.
Taking a dig at the Congress, Sharma said those who are 'responsible' for the problem of terrorism should not question Modi as he was working overtime to root out the issue.
Raking up the Congress leader’s suggestive reference to Rashtriya Swaymasewak Sangh following the Mumbai attack and his ‘Osama ji’ remark, the BJP media cell head said the opposition party practised ‘vote bank politics’ over the issue. He also noted that Singh and other Congress leaders had questioned the veracity of Batla House encounter.
The Congress government was found ‘asleep’ when it received the intelligence about the Mumbai attack while the BJP dispensation acted ‘swiftly’, Sharma said.
He also played down Congress’ criticism of the decision to deploy the NSG instead of the Army to flush out terrorists, saying the former draws personnel from Army as well.