New Delhi: Those who stood against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the aftermath of the Balakot airstrike had become weapons in Pakistan’s hands, Union Minister Arun Jaitley said in an exclusive interview with News18 on Thursday.
Slamming the Opposition for raising “non-issues”, he said, “It’s unfortunate that those who are against Narendra Modi, instead of standing with the country have become weapons in the hands of the Pakistanis. What the Pakistanis were saying — that you're doing this with a political purpose — our parties started saying that too. When Pakistan started saying give (us) proof for Balakot, then (our) Opposition started giving proof even though the government hadn’t.”
Responding to Pakistan’s claims, that India never conducted airstrikes in Balakot, he asked why their air force sent F-16s the next day into India. “Why did they tell the world India has entered our borders? If it was a simple breach then why was such a storm created in Pakistan that in parliament there were proceedings?”
On the Opposition’s demand to declare the body count and casualty figures from the Balakot airstrike, Jaitley said the Air Force's job is to strike the target and come back and it is not their job to land the pilots and count how many have died, like the Air Force Chief has said.
“What interest do we have in counting corpses? We can have an assessment as to how many people were there. Whether or not anybody would have survived can be an assessment, but reducing the entire debate to this frivolous issue — did IAF count, did the government count? The next time we will say that send someone from the mahagatbandhan (grand alliance) to verify how many corpses are there,” he said.
In the wide-ranging conversation, the finance minister also spoke on the entry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra into the political sphere. He quipped, “It’s possible that for their party it’s an internal issue. She wasn’t tried and tested, but they've given some land and told her go do farming on it. So this is the outcome of tried and tested formula.”
He also took on the TDP, which had quit the National Democratic Alliance last year over special status demand for Andhra Pradesh, and said its decision was solely due to political considerations.
He said the government had offered a special package to the state, but the TDP government rejected it.
“In the case of Andhra Pradesh, when the Finance Commission said there won’t be a special status, I took out another formula — instead of special status we'll give you (Andhra Pradesh) a special package which will give you as much money as the special status was going to give you — this is no right. Naidu welcomed it with a letter, thanked me with a press conference and when he wanted to make a political turn he said ‘No’ and made this an issue again. So this change was made from a political perspective.”
He added that there was little hope of the BJP and TDP reuniting. “Let’s see how big TDP will remain after elections. They've chosen their road, so I don’t think there's any hope for conversation with them.”
Responding to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the Goods and Services Tax, Jaitley claimed that it had, in fact, ended the harassment of traders.
“If they don’t have the information on this (GST), they need to know they don’t need to speak on this. I think GST has finished all the harassment. The manufacturer is not taxed for up to Rs 40 lakh, up to Rs1.5 crore they are taxed for 1 per cent. No inspector comes, no barricades are left in the country,” he said.
“Tax collection has increased and all those who predict how taxes will change — Modi government is the first in the history that didn’t increase income tax by even 1 per cent, (it) instead decreased it and improved tax collection by 80 to 90 per cent. (It) Lowered the taxes and increased the base,” he added.