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Sharad Pawar says Balakot air strike may have been carried out for a political purpose


Mumbai, Mar 16: NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday said there were "murmurs" of doubt among people on whether the post-Pulwama attack airstrike on February 26 on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Pakistan had a "political purpose".

NCP chief Sharad Pawar

In an interview to PTI, the Maratha strongman said cross-border surgical strikes took place every year, adding that had he been the defence minister now, he would not have milked the issue for political benefits, but would only have worked in the interest of the nation.

Pawar said being a former defence minister, he was aware of the capabilities of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, adding that no one could challenge their might.

"However, this government has lost credibility in the eyes of the public at large. That is why there are murmurs among the people whether it (the airstrike after the February 14 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama) was for a political purpose or not, whether certain actions were taken just to regain credibility," he claimed.

"Such surgical attacks have happened many times. Every year there is something at the India-Pakistan border. If something happens from their side, our forces respond effectively. It has not just happened once or twice, but so many instances," he said.

Stating that he would not have made noise immediately after such a military action to show the world how strong his forces were, Pawar said, "I would have kept mum and taught a lesson to anyone trying to create a problem for my nation. However, my approach would not have been for political exploitation, but only to protect the interest of the nation."

Asked if according to him, Rahul Gandhi would be an effective prime ministerial candidate, the Rajya Sabha MP said the Congress chief himself had not staked claim to the post in case the opposition "mahagathbandhan" (grand alliance) won a majority in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

[NCP chief Sharad Pawar won't contest Lok Sabha polls, says '2 family members are contesting']

Stating that Gandhi's mission was in the larger interest of the nation, which was to oust the current Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, the former Maharashtra chief minister asserted that all the parties in the grand alliance were ready to help and cooperate towards that aim. Asked about his own prime ministerial ambitions, he said the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) would contest hardly 25 seats in the polls starting April 11.

"I can coordinate but I do not expect that with a number of 25 or 26 (Lok Sabha seats), one can ultimately take up such a major responsibility. But my party's efforts will definitely be to bring together like-minded forces and see that the BJP and their friends do not get the requisite numbers," Pawar added.


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