The political storm over Defence Minister A K Antony’s statement on the LoC attack paralysed parliament on Wednesday with an aggressive opposition accusing him of giving a “clean chit” to the Pakistan Army and demanding an apology.
Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were repeatedly adjourned, before being adjourned for the day without transacting any substantive business.
Antony, who has been under fire since Tuesday for saying that “terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms” had carried out the attack in which five Indian soldiers were killed, maintained in the Rajya Sabha that his statement was based on “whatever information” was available to him then.
Antony said he would get back to the House if he got more details about the incident in Poonch after Army Chief General Bikram Singh’s visit to Jammu. “Regarding the defence and protection of integrity of the country, the nation is one, parliament is one,” he said.
But the BJP said Antony had given a “clean chit” to the Pakistan Army and provided it with an “escape route”.
Speaking to the media, BJP parliamentary party chairman L K Advani said Antony’s statement “is intended only to exonerate Pakistan government and absolve it of the responsibility of killing five Indian soldiers”. He said, “I have a feeling that the government wants to continue talks with Pakistan,” adding that the nation would feel outraged if the talks were held in such a situation. Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley also said there should be no talks between India and Pakistan. “There is no atmosphere for talks...You cannot have attack and talks at the same time,” he said.
In the Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said the defence ministry had stated that “the ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed terrorists along with soldiers of Pak Army.” However, she added, Antony had blamed “terrorists and persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms”. She said the Army had held the Pakistan Army responsible, but Antony had given it a “clean chit”. Terming it as a serious issue, she asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or the Defence Minister to give an explanation. While Singh, who was present in the Lok Sabha, remained silent, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Congress spokespersons defended Antony.
The BJP also moved privilege motions against Antony in both the houses.
Charging Antony with an attempt to demoralise the Army, former party