New Delhi: Former vice president Hamid Ansari Tuesday said people have the right to ask about what was done and achieved in the Balakot airstrikes and the government should answer such questions.
He said the Narendra Modi government has a mixed record and though it started on a high note, the fulfilment of the promises it made is some distance away.
"Instead, it has been taken over by a rhetoric of a certain kind which to a man of my generation is less than desirable," he said in an interview to Tiranga TV.
Asked by interviewer Karan Thapar that in light of the Balakot airstrikes and the downing of the F-16, if Indians have the right to question the military and the government or was it unpatriotic to do so, Ansari said, "Of course it is the right of any citizen body to question the performance particularly on matters that relate to foreign policy and defence." He said people have the right to ask "what did we do in Balakot, what did we achieve in Balakot, how has it finally played out".
"There is now so much of evidence available from credible bodies outside the country that you cannot brush it under the carpet," Ansari, who was the vice president from 2007-2017, said.
On whether it was an issue on which people have right to ask and the government has the duty to answer, he said "absolutely".
Asked about Foreign policy magazine's claim that Pakistan's fleet of F-16 planes was intact with all fighter jets accounted for, Ansari said, "If a claim is made. If I have claimed that I have shot a tiger on a tiger hunt, surely I have to produce the tiger." To a question on whether a government refusing to answer such questions was failing in its duty, he said any normal government would answer.
"I don't know the technicalities of the Air Force. One side claims it has shot down a plane the other side says it has not shot down a plane then surely there is something which is in between," Ansari said.
He asked what is the harm in finding out answers to such questions in a democracy.
Indian Air Force fighter jets bombed terror group JeM's training camp near Balakot in Pakistan on February 26.
Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations the next day. However, the IAF thwarted their plans and downed an F-16 plane of the Pakistani Air Force.
The Indian strike on the JeM camp came 12 days after the terror group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama in which 40 soldiers were killed.
Asked about the BJP fielding Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal and the message it was sending, Ansari said, "I don't know the motivation behind making her the candidate, but not only that, after her candidature was announced, she has made a very specific pointed statement about her own complicity in the 1992 (Babri Masjid) incident.
"Since all others who were identified as being complicit in that act have been charged, I suppose the legal process will now take this also into account," he said.
Ansari was referring to Thakur's remark that she was "proud" of her participation in demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in 1992.
"Whatever message it (fielding her from Bhopal) sends, it is for the electorate to take a judgement on it. It is not a message that should be given in a society which is governed by acceptance of diversity, by acceptance of tolerance, and by rule of law," he said.
Ansari said the effort to divert attention from real issues was "pretty evident".
Asked if fear is being stoked to divert attention, he said, "Possibly".