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Govt, Oppn in sparring match over 'numbers'

Amit Shah claimed that 250 were killed in Balakot air strike

New Delhi: Days after Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee asked the Modi government to come clean on what happened at Balakot, opposition parties on Monday latched on to BJP chief Amit Shah's claim of 250 casualties in the Indian Air Force's air strike in Pakistan's Balakot to ask how he got such top secret information.

The Congress asked the government what was the basis of Shah's claim and why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not giving details of the casualties.

Congress spokesperson RPN Singh accused the prime minister and the BJP leadership of politicising the air strike and said Modi should apologise to the country for trying to portray the Indian Air Force (IAF) as being "weaker without Rafale" and undermining its abilities.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal also said if Shah is claiming 250 casualties of terrorists in the air strike, why is the prime minister not providing details of the number of deaths.

He cited several international media reports claiming "no proof of militant losses at Balakot" and asked Modi if those media organisations are "pro-Pakistan".

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala referred to Union minister S S Ahluwalia's reported remarks that the government never claimed to have killed 300-350 terrorists in the air strike and asked the prime minister to share the "truth" with the country.

The BJP hit back asking the Congress not to "mislead" the country and "insult" the armed forces with "fake and fabricated" stories.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar Monday criticised opposition parties for questioning the Indian Air Force's bombing of a terror training camp in Pakistan, saying operational details cannot be shared as doing so will only help that country.

He said seeking proof of the operation in Balakot amounted to showing a lack of confidence in the armed forces.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, furious at the opposition for questioning his comment on Rafale jets boosting India's firepower in the recent air confrontation with Pakistan, said Monday: "Use common sense".

While there has been no official statement on the number of deaths, government sources had earlier said up to 350 terrorists were killed, Shah Sunday put the toll at 250. Some media reports claimed that the damage has been minimal, prompting opposition leaders to clamour for clarity.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal Monday said Shah took a stand contradictory to that of the armed forces.

BSP chief Mayawati attacked Modi for his remarks on Rafale jets, asking why the BJP government at the Centre did not induct even one of these fighters into the IAF during its tenure.

NCP's Sharad Pawar said if the information on casualty had come from defence personnel, he would have taken it seriously.

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