Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Why is Mamata Banerjee worried over heavy polling in West Bengal?

akb (007)West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee is worried over reports of heavy polling that took place in the fourth round on Monday in her state. In the last several elections, including assembly and panchayat polls, there were incidents of large scale violence and there were allegations about TMC workers trying to prevent Congress and BJP supporters from voting. There used to be incidents of bomb throwing and stabbing in the recent past.

On Monday too, clashes took place in some pockets, but voters at large were unafraid because of heavy presence of central paramilitary forces outside polling stations. The TMC supremo is naturally worried and she has alleged that, in one incident, security forces forced people to vote in favour of BJP. Her allegation is yet to be verified.

The second point to note is that there has been heavy polling in those constituencies on Monday, where BJP has fielded strong candidates. This has caused more worry for the TMC supremo.

Mamata Banerjee is also wary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who told a rally in West Bengal on Monday that at least 40 TMC MLAs are in touch with BJP and they may cross over if her party suffers electoral defeat on counting day (May 23). Mamata has asked her party leaders to lodge a complaint with the Election Commission blaming the PM for “encouraging horse trading”.

Naturally Modi’s remark has let the cat among the pigeons in the TMC camp, and the party leaders are now busy giving clarifications.

In one of his recent interviews, the PM had revealed how Mamata Banerjee used to send her kurtas and rosogollas. A furious TMC supremo publicly said in her rally that she would now be sending soil and stones in the shape of rosogollas to the PM.

Modi knows how to turn abuses and threats made by rivals into weapons. He promptly told his rally in West Bengal on Monday that he would love to have rosgollas made of Bengal’s sacred soil on which titans like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore and Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee walked. Mamata Banerjee had no answer to this quip. Such are the hassles of reacting to remarks without putting any serious thought.

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The reasons why Modi is giving sleepless nights to Mamata, Naveen Patnaik

AKB_frame_790 (002)On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi taunted West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee by saying that if the post of Prime Minister had been available through auction, she would have tried that option too, but the problem is that the post of PM is not auctionable. Modi was addressing an election rally in Asansol, from where Union Minister Babul Supriyo is trying to retain his seat.

On the same day, Mamata Banerjee openly objected to the posting of Central paramilitary forces at polling booths. She alleged that officers of paramilitary forces were telling voters to vote for BJP. Her charges are yet to be verified but it clearly denotes uneasiness on her part about the possible Lok Sabha results from West Bengal.

Huge turnouts at PM’s rallies are common, but the surprising element this time is that large turnouts have been noticed at BJP President Amit Shah’s election rallies in places like Birbhum and Bardhaman, considered to be strongholds of Trinamool Congress. Clearly a shift in the rural voters’ mood in Bengal is discernible.

You may remember, in 2014, when Modi wave was sweeping across the rest of the country, it had hardly any effect in Bengal. There was hardly any optimism in the state BJP camp, and Mamata did not take BJP as her main challenger. Finally, the BJP won only two out of a total of 42 LS seats. But, in the last five years, both Modi and Amit Shah toiled hard to expand the BJP’s election machinery in Bengal, and the results are showing. BJP flags now flutter over housetops in the interior areas of Bengal.

BJP top brass now believe that Bengal and, to some extent, Odisha can compensate for any electoral loss that the party may suffer in the North Indian states. During the last panchayat elections in Bengal, TMC workers prevented BJP workers from reaching polling booths. This is no more the case now.

The Election Commission is holding polls in seven phases in Bengal, with four to five constituencies going to the polls in each phase. Central paramilitary forces have been deployed in large numbers, and there has been heavy polling in all the phases so far. This has caused worry in Mamata’s camp.

In neighbouring state of Odisha, assembly polls are being held simultaneously with LS elections, and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal is fighting to get a fifth term in office. Patnaik has been in power since last 19 years and he is quite popular. In the 2014 LS polls, BJD had won 20 out of 21 seats, and the lone remaining seat was won by BJP.

In Odisha, the main opposition party Congress has weakened and the ruling BJD dominates in most of the constituencies. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has personal worries about his health and there is the anti-incumbency factor too.

Prime Minister Modi has therefore decided to strike when the iron is hot. On Tuesday, he named Naveen Patnaik and said that he would not tolerate attacks on BJP workers by the ruling party supporters. Clearly, Modi has found a good opportunity to grab the political space in Odisha. The jury is still out.

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Why Rahul Gandhi had to admit before SC that he lied in Rafale case?

baat_frame_64791 (002)On Monday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court expressing “regret” for linking the Supreme Court’s April 10 order on petitions seeking review of Rafale verdict to his “chowkidar chor har” campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In his affidavit filed in response to a contempt of court petition by BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi, Rahul Gandhi said, his remarks about the Supreme Court declaring ‘chowkidar’ as ‘chor’ were made “in a rhetorical flourish in the heat of the moment”. He admitted that he had not read the apex court’s order before making these remarks.

It is now clear that Rahul Gandhi had lied about the Supreme Court order and I feel that he also lied in his affidavit when he said that he had not read the court order. The Congress President had said twice, both in Amethi and in his rally in Katihar that the Supreme Court has found the ‘chowkidar’ to be a ‘chor’ in the Rafale deal. The ball is now in the apex court which has to decide on his affidavit.

Soon after his affidavit was filed, Rahul raised the ‘chowkidar chor har’ slogan in his Amethi rally on Monday. The only difference this time was that he did not say the Supreme Court has found the ‘chowkidar’ to be a ‘chor’ in the Rafale deal.

Rahul has raised this slogan umpteen number of times, and there is nothing new in this. Till date, he has not showed a single evidence to establish that the Modi government had given Rs 30,000 crore benefit to Anil Ambani in the Rafale deal.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has already stated that Anil Ambani’s company was one of the nearly 100 companies who got offset contracts from the makers of Rafale aircraft, Dassault Aviation. The fact remains that Anil Ambani’s company got only Rs 852 crore worth offset contract, and not Rs 30,000 crore from Dassault Aviation.

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Why Mayawati decided to bury the hatchet with Mulayam Singh Yadav?

akbHistory was rewritten in the sleepy town of Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh on Friday, when Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati appeared on the dais with Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav and asked voters to elect her former sworn enemy to Parliament.

In her speech, Mayawati did refer to the infamous Lucknow guest house incident of 1995, when Mulayam’s supporters had mobbed her and she had to shut herself inside a room to protect herself.

This incident led to a bitter political feud that lasted 24 years. Mulayam and Mayawati were considered two extreme poles in UP politics

On Friday, Mayawati said in the presence of Mulayam and his son Akhilesh: “I know people must be wondering why I have come here despite the state guest house incident..Sometimes in the public interest (‘jan hit’) and our party’s movement, difficult decisions have to be taken.”

I think the ‘namumkin’ (impossible) became ‘mumkin'(possible) because of the common desire of SP and BSP leaders to oust Prime Minister Narendra Modi from power. Akhilesh Yadav acted as the catalyst in forging SP-BSP alliance and on Friday, he acted as master of ceremonies to deftly handle any leftover sparks that may have been there among the crowds .

It is true Akhilesh put in his best to forge the alliance and on Friday. He repeatedly told his supporters to give “due respect” to the BSP supremo. He also made his father Mulayam speak in the same tone, and that mattered. But the crux of this SP-BSP alliance is completely based on the convergence of Muslim, Dalit and OBC votes.

Akhilesh may be speaking about electing a new Prime Minister at the Centre, but his party is contesting only 37 seats in UP. There is no common agenda or minimum programme that is being reflected in the speeches of the SP and BSP supremos. Their unity is only aimed at ousting Modi from power.

The question is: why Akhilesh joined hands with Mayawati to oust Modi from power? Why Mayawati decided to forget the shameful guest house incident of 1995?

The answer is clear. Mayawait is presently fighting for the very existence of BSP. In the 2014 elections, her party failed to win a single seat in Lok Sabha, and she knows that if the same result is repeated this time, she may have to wind up her party. Both Akhilesh and Mayawati have joined hands because they fear that Prime Minister Modi may again retain power this time.

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Impressive turnout at PM Modi’s rallies in Kerala is surprising

akb28MarchKerala, popularly known as ‘God’s Own Country’, has a tradition of bi-polar political preferences. The Congress-led United Democratic Front and the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front have been dominating the political landscape in Kerala since decades. BJP, which draws its support from RSS supporters, had not been able to win a single seat  in Lok Sabha from Kerala.

It is in this context that it is surprising to notice the huge turnout of voters at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rally in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday evening. The crowd quietly listened to the Prime Minister’s speech with occasional rounds of applause. There was a similar huge turnout last week in Kerala at Modi’s rally. I spoke to several political pundits, who know about Kerala politics, and they too said the turnout was surprising. It means that the common voter in Kerala is keen to listen to Modi’s views on Kerala and national politics.

The moot question is: Will this turnout translate into votes? Will the BJP in Kerala be able to open its account in Lok Sabha? The jury is still out.

Modi also addressed election rallies in Karnataka on Thursday. The Prime Minister has the knack of changing his topics that suits his audience, based on local sentiments. In Karnataka, he spoke of how the Karnataka JD(S)-Congress coalition government is wobbling and Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is facing lots of problems in running a coalition.

On the other hand, in Kerala, Modi spoke about the killings of BJP and RSS supporters, and told his audience how both the Congress and CPI(M) have been indulging in what he called “opportunism”. Modi pointed out how these two camps are rivals in Kerala but support each other at the Centre.

I think, the huge turnouts at Modi’s rallies in Kerala are indicative of a perceptive swing in the mood of common voters, and BJP may benefit from it.

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Why BJP leadership fielded Sadhvi Pragya against Digvijay Singh?

AKB_frame_53438 (002)BJP leadership has decided to field Sadhvi Pragya Thakur as its candidate to take on senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh in the prestigious Bhopal parliamentary constituency. The saffron-robed sannyasin was earlier made accused in Sunil Joshi murder case and Ajmer blast, but was later acquitted. She is currently an accused in Malegaon blast case, which is presently in trial stage.

Sadhvi Pragya Thakur joined BJP on Wednesday and within hours it was announced that she would be the party candidate from Bhopal. She may be a greenhorn in politics, but if she manages to defeat former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh in the state capital, the latter will have much to answer for.

Sadhvi Pragya was and is still a saffron-robed sannyasin, but her name cropped up in national political discourse, when Digvijay Singh and several other Congress leaders coined the term “saffron terror” during UPA rule. Sadhvi Pragya was incarcerated in jail for ten years and she has last year alleged in my show “Aap Ki Adalat” how she was brutally tortured in custody, both physically and mentally.

It was Digivijay Singh who had blamed the BJP and RSS for encouraging “saffron terror” during UPA regime, but the courts acquitted Sadhvi Pragya in cases where she was charged under the dreaded MCOCA Act.

On Wednesday, BJP President Amit Shah told an election rally in Odisha that “after the Samjhauta Express blast, Congress had alleged that Hindu terrorists were behind it and sadhus were put in jail. Therefore the BJP has decided to field Sadhvi Pragya against Digvijay Singh, the person who coined the term ‘saffron terror'”.

It is an irony of fate that Digvijay Singh will now have to face the lady, whom he had blamed as a terrorist and anti-national, while for the BJP, the Sadhvi has become a symbol of nationalism and patriotism.

I may mention here that Swami Pramod Krishnan is the man who had advised Digvijay Singh to coin the term “saffron terror”. Pramod Krishnan is not a sadhu himself, but he claims to have control over several pro-Congress sadhus. He has now been fielded as Congress candidate against Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Lucknow.


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Rahul is unnecessarily inviting problems by his wrong choice of words

AKB_frame_449On Saturday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi while addressing an election rally in Kolar, Karnataka, made his usual charges about Rafale deal against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and for good measure, made this remark: “I have a question. Why all the thieves have Modi in their names, be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi and Narendra Modi? We don’t know how many more such Modis will come out.”

Replying to this, Modi on Tuesday, while addressing election rallies, pointed out to what Rahul said about the ‘Modi’ surname. The PM said that he could well understand if Rahul made personal attacks on him, but the Congress leader has now started saying, why all the ‘chors’ have ‘Modi’ as their surname.

The PM pointed out that Rahul’s remark could hurt the feelings of all those who have Modi as their surname in different states, where they belong to different castes.

Already, Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modil on Tuesday said he would be filing a defamation case against Rahul, while people having Modi surnames in different states of India are also planning to file defamation suits.

This not an isolated case about slip of tongue. On Monday, the Supreme Court, acting on a petition by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, issued notice to Rahul Gandhi for misleading the public by saying that the apex court has found the Prime Minister guilty of corruption in Rafale deal.

The Chief Justice of India said: “We did not say any such thing (Chowkidar Chor Hai). We make it clear this court had no occasion to make any view or finding or make any observation as allegedly attributed to the court by the respondent (Rahul Gandhi).”

Rahul Gandhi had said “now the Supreme Court has accepted that chowkidar has done the theft”. The apex court has asked the Congress President to file his reply by April 22.

I had already said on April 10 in ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ show and written on this blog that Rahul has done a mistake in telling a lie and misquoting the Supreme Court. He may have to face trouble, when the hearing takes place on his reply on April 23.

Rahul cannot hide behind the argument that he had no intention of misrepresenting the apex court’s order, nor can he say that his remarks were twisted and quoted out of context. Rahul’s remarks are on record in videotapes.

One thing is certain: the Supreme Court is going to take a strong view over such loose remarks that are being made in the heat of election campaign. Already the Election Commission, on prodding from the apex court, has banned UP CM Yogi Adityanath, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, BSP supremo Mayawati and SP leader Azam Khan from campaigning for 48 to 72 hours.

Our political leaders must exercise restraint while making remarks in the heat and dust of election campaign.

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Why is Modi confident about retaining majority in LS polls?

AKB_frame_74815Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an interview to Doordarshan on Monday exuded full confidence and said that there is “an unprecedented wave of support” for BJP, the like of which, he says, he has not seen even in 2014.

Modi mentioned Uttar Pradesh in particular, where, he said, the opposition parties are so much afraid of an electoral rout that the Congress President Rahul Gandhi had to opt for contesting Wayanad seat in faraway Kerala, as he was unsure of his victory from their family borough Amethi.

The Prime Minister was highly optimistic about results from West Bengal, where, he claimed, the people of the state have made up their mind to support BJP.

Modi also spoke on Rafale aircraft deal, on nationalism, on dynastic politics and on charges of politicization of army. He said, he can understand people opposing him personally, but it is unacceptable if while opposing him they start working against national interests and speak out against the country.

The PM said, he could understand the lies being dished out on the Rafale deal, but was at a loss to find why a 134-year-old party like the Congress had to resort to this.

Modi said martyrdom of soldiers and nationalism are as much an election issue like the suicides of farmers.

He said, “the nation is suffering because of terrorism for the last 40 years, and I do not see why we cannot raise this issue in the elections. If we don’t tell the people what our views are on this issue, then what is the logic behind this?..”

“Can any country move ahead without a sense of nationalism? In a country where thousands of soldiers have been martyred, shouldn’t that be an election issue? If farmers die, it is an election issue, and if soldiers die, it should not be an election issue? How can it be so?”

On Rafale, Modi said, the people now know the truth and the lies have been exposed. “He (Rahul) is raising the Rafale issue, in order to “wash off the sins” of his father (in the Bofors issue). ”

The PM also pointed out that by raising the issue of dynastic politics, he was trying to convey to the people of India that dynastic politics was dangerous for Indian democracy.

Modi, as I have already said earlier, has already felt the voters’ pulse by consistently raising the issue of nationalism in his rallies. He hopes that his party will repeat , if not better the 2014 LS poll result. We shall have to wait for the verdict on May 23.


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Modi is tapping public anger over Opposition questioning Balakot air strike

akb (008)Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an astute and consummate orator-cum-politician. He has been raising the issues of national security and Kashmir in almost all his election rallies across India. Modi is questioning why the Opposition is raising doubts about the Indian Air Force air strike in Balakote (Pakistan). He is also asking why the Congress is supporting those parties which are in favour of ‘two presidents, two constitutions’ in Kashmir.

There is no doubt public anger over Congress, NCP and MNS leaders questioning the outcome of Balakot air strike. This was evident when I spoke to members of the public in Nagpur and Mumbai in our India TV show “Aap Ki Aawaaz”. People openly criticized the Opposition leaders for raising doubts about the army’s surgical strike and IAF’s Balakot air strike.

Modi has felt the pulse of the people, and he is raising this issue in almost all his public meetings. The Prime Minister is consistently alleging that the Opposition leaders have been speaking “in the language of Pakistan”.

Along with this, Modi has added the issue of Kashmir, where National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti have challenged the government to remove Article 35A and Article 370, which confer special status and legislative powers to Kashmir. These leaders have been openly advocating ‘two PMs and two constitutions”, and Modi is again tapping public anger over such statements from Kashmiri leaders. In reply, Congress and NCP leaders have been ducking these issues in their public interactions.

On Friday, nearly 150 retired officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force wrote a joint petition to the President, who is the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces, protesting against what they called ‘politicization’ of the armed forces by political leaders. Though the joint letter did not name any one leader of political party, it alleged that political leaders were trying to take credit for cross-border strikes.

The moment the joint letter appeared on media, two former chiefs Gen. S. F. Rodrigues and Air Chief Marshal N. C. Suri said their consent was not taken before including their names in the letter. Another former Army vice-chief Lt Gen M. L Naidu said he had not signed any such letter. Rahstrapati Bhavan sources said, the President is yet to receive the letter.

One of the retired officers, who drafted this letter, later said that for the first time in last 40 years, the government has given permission to the armed forces to carry out cross-border strikes. Naturally, this was a brave decision taken by a strong government, and the ruling party can take the credit and seek votes from the electorate. However, to describe the armed forces as “Modi Ki Sena” and to use images of Wing Commander Abhinandan in election posters is unacceptable.

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Modi is always best when he is aggressive

AKB_frame_74815 (002)Prime Minister Narendra Modi is always at his best when he appears to be aggressive. Even as polling was going on in 91 Lok Sabha constituencies across India in the first phase, Modi, while addressing an election rally in Assam, said: “Which way the winds are blowing, can be seen from your enthusiasm. Today voting is taking place in the first phase in some parts of the country. From what we know so far, a zabardast (massive) wave for ‘phir ek baar Modi Sarkar (Modi government again)’ is visible.”

Modi indicated that his government would retain power and he clearly said that he would ensure that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and Triple Talaq abolition law are passed in Parliament.

Modi’s claim apart, let us see what happened on the first day of polling on Thursday. In the eight LS constituencies that went to poll in western UP, the polarization between Hindus and Muslims appeared to be complete. This can cause problems for Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh, who is contesting from Muzaffarnagar.

In several constituencies, diehard BSP voters were seen searching for their party’s ‘elephant’ symbol, whereas the contestant of the maha gathbandhan was from RLD, which is part of the SP-BSP alliance. Clearly, the message about maha gathbandhan has not percolated to the ground level. Moreover, BSP supremo Mayawati put Muslim voters in a fix when she openly appealed to them not to vote for Congress candidates.

There are 13 LS seats in UP out of a total of 50 LS seats in India, where Muslims dominate with more than 30 per cent votes. There are 38 LS seats having 21 pc to 30 pc Muslim voters.

The contest is tough between the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance and Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance had won 41 out of 48 seats, but the Congress and NCP had not joined hands then. This time the Congress-NCP alliance is giving the ruling combination a tough time.

The most surprising element in the first phase of poll was in the Kashmir valley.

Nearly 35 per cent voters cast their votes in this militancy-infested volatile area close to the Line of Control. I had been saying in the past and it has now been proved right that the common man in the valley wants development and peace.

By casting their votes, the Kashmiris have rebuffed their politicians who had been demanding two PMs and two constitutions. People in the valley want better roads, electricity and the youths want education and jobs. It is time that politicians in the Valley having leanings towards separatists should understand the pulse of the people.

All in all, the jury is still out as to which party is leading in the national sweepstakes.

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Why Devendra Fadnavis said, Modi will put an end to Kashmir issue

akbI was in Mumbai on Wednesday and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was the guest in our show ‘Aap Ki Adalat’. Fadnavis is young and dynamic. He has definite views about current affairs and none of his replies were evasive. He clearly said that the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will “sweep” all Lok Sabha seats from his state and will also “sweep” the assembly polls due this October.

On J&K leader Mehbooba Mufti’s threat that if Article 35A was removed, Kashmir will sever its links with India, Fadnavis said, “we have been hearing similar threats for the last 50 years. Kashmir shall always remain part of India, and like Sardar Patel who merged 542 princely states into the Indian Union, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will definitely put an end to the Kashmir question.”

Fadnavis also spoke on saffron terror and said that “a Hindu can never become a terrorist, because the very essence of Hindutva is tolerance. Hindustan has given asylum to people of various religions who fled their countries because of persecution.”

The Maharashtra Chief Minister, who will be completing five years of rule this October, spoke extensively about his ally Shiv Sena, and made the audience guffaw when he made sarcastic remarks about NCP chief Sharad Pawar. He also spoke about MNS chief Raj Thackeray.

Fadnavis also pointed towards a new trend among younger generation hailing from traditionally political families of Congress and NCP in Maharashtra. He said, the younger generation from these political families is detaching from tradition and getting more and more attracted towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi. You can watch the Aap Ki Adalat show with Devendra Fadnavis on India TV on Saturday night at 10 pm and on Sunday at 10 am and 10 pm.

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Pakistan and US must now accept that an F-16 jet was shot down by IAF

AKB_frame_1107 (002)The Indian Air Force on Monday released radar images to reject Pakistan’s claim that it had not lost a F-16 fighter jet in the dogfight with IAF jets on February 27 near the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir.

IAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations) Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor said, the Air Force had “irrefutable evidence” that an F-16 fighter jet belonging to Pakistan Air Force was shot down by MiG-21 pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. “The IAF has more credible information and evidence that is clearly indicative of the fact that PAF lost one F-16 aircraft. However due to security and confidentiality concerns, we are restricting the information being shared in the public domain.”

A US magazine ‘Foreign Policy’ had recently published a report attributing to two unnamed US defence officials that all the F-16 aircraft in Pakistan Air Force fleet have been accounted for, but a day later, Pentagon denied that any such inventory was audited. The IAF claim comes in the wake of these developments.

Pakistan has been caught in its web of lies and deceit. On February 27, it claimed that no F-16 aircraft was sent to the LoC. It also hid the information that one of its pilots fell to the ground in an injured condition. Nobody believed Pakistan’s claims. The next day, IAF officers displayed to the media part of an AMRAAM missile which can only be fired from an F-16 jet.

The problem with Pakistan is that it cannot admit its F-16 aircraft was shot down, because according to the terms of agreement under which the US supplied F-16 fighters, these cannot be used against India for the purpose of aggression. Pakistan Air Force, therefore, staged an elaborate cover up, but its lies have been nailed by irrefutable evidences, like radar images, electronic signatures and radio transcripts that are available with the IAF.

With the release of radar images by IAF, which is normally not done, Pakistan and the US have no other option but to accept that an F-16 fighter was indeed shot down by our pilot on February 27.

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