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PM's 'cloud cover could ditch radar' remark sparks row

May 12, 2019 19:08 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks over Balakot air strikes during an interview have sparked a controversy with Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury writing to the Election Commission accusing the PM of violating the poll code by sharing operational details of a 'sensitive' defence mission in a television interview to influence voters.

In an interview on Saturday, Modi had said he approved the Indian Air Force's cross-border mission in Balakot, Pakistan, despite inclement weather and against the advise of experts as he felt cloud cover would hide the Indian fighter jets from Pakistani radar.

 

Modi said he relied on his 'raw wisdom' to dispel the doubts of the defence experts who had planned the mission.

"I am surprised that the country's pundits who abuse me never figured this out," he said, referring to rain on the night of the air strike.

Modi's comment was tweeted from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's official Twitter handles. However, it was deleted after it became butt of a joke by Twitterati. 

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah was among the first to mock the PM over his comment.

'Pakistani radar doesn’t penetrate clouds. This is an important piece of tactical information that will be critical when planning future air strikes,' he tweeted.

Soon after the BJP tweet was deleted, Abdullah said, 'Looks like the tweet got lost in the clouds. Luckily there are screen shots floating around to help.'

Yechury also tweeted saying, 'National security is not something to be trifled with. Such an irresponsible statement from Modi is highly damaging. Somebody like this can’t remain India’s PM.'

Congress's Sanjay Jha said, '#EntireCloudCover is a blockbuster clip. It will be used in the Indian Institute of Science as a case-study.'

In his letter to the EC, Yechury has alleged Modi's statements were in clear and deliberate violation of the guidelines which were re-issued and reiterated by the Commission before the first round of polling, making it clear that the armed forces, which belong to all of India, cannot be a subject for hyperbolic and false claims by any party.

The CPI-M general secretary said, "This interview wherein Modi gave out operational details of a sensitive military mission, with a purpose to influence the voters during the silent period of the campaign needs to be recorded and acted upon by the Commission.

"It appears that Modi is mocking the Election Commission by violating all rules, codes and guidelines with impunity with damaging consequences for our democracy, of which the Election Commission is the custodian. We hope that you will uphold the prestige, honour and credibility of the Election Commission and initiate action against Modi," he said.

Yechury further said based on the poll body's recent decisions on BJP leaders and Prime Minister Narendra Modi making alleged poll code violations earlier, it was 'widely perceived' that Modi was being treated as though he was outside the purview of the Model Code of Conduct.

Yechury further lashed out at Modi for continuing to use the armed forces in his speech.

In an election rally in Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, the prime minister is reported to have said, "Today terrorists were killed by our Army in Kashmir.

"Now some people are worried as to why did Modi kill the terrorists when voting is underway? An armed terrorist is attacking, do my jawans go to the Election Commission to seek permission to kill him?"

'Note: He (Modi) claims that he killed the terrorists not our armed forces!' Yechury said.

The Left leader pointed out that similar 'violations' have been brought to the notice of the EC earlier too.

"The commission, however, seems to think that Modi and Shri Amit Shah are above the electoral process and the Model code of Conduct does not apply to them. This has been noted by myriad cartoonists, newspaper editorials and commentators.

"I hope that the Election Commission will now prove them wrong and initiate prompt and suitable action against Modi," he said.

Meanwhile, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday described Modi's remarks as 'painfully embarrassing'.

Mehbooba wondered whether the prime minister authorising the operation in bad weather by overruling the advice of the Indian Air Force led to the strikes 'failing' to hit the intended target.

'No secret that Balakot strikes failed to hit the intended target. Was it because PM overruled the advice of IAF & authorised airstrikes in bad weather?' Mehbooba asked in a tweet.

'Cloud cover logic is painfully embarrassing. Remind me again, why is RG (Congress president Rahul Gandhi) derided as Pappu? #cloudonradargone'.

The People's Democratic Party president said the BJP's ability to 'suspend logic' in its quest to win another term is 'mind numbingly fatuous', adding that the armed forces do not deserve this.

'I was raked over the coals for questioning veracity of Balakot strikes. But seeing Pak media & journos troll PM on cloud gaffe is awfully embarrassing,' Mehbooba added.

With inputs from Agencies

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