Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday, in an interview with News18, touched upon a range of issues, including the Balakot air strikes, the Opposition mahagathbandhan, and the BJP's alliance partners.
Jaitley stated that India had indeed downed an F-16 aircraft of the Pakistan air force. His statement came two days after defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said India knew the identity of the deceased Pakistani pilot.
Remarking that the 'biggest demand' of the Opposition leaders was a body count of those killed in the strikes, Jaitley said, "There can't be such foolishness in the politicians of any other nation — I am using a harsh word here. The Air Force's job is to strike the target and come back. It is not their job to land their pilots and count have many have died, as the air chief has said... Next time, we will say that someone from the mahagathbandhan should be sent to verify how many corpses there were."
Calling the Pakistani "retaliatory action" to the Balakot air strike "the most botched-up action for any Air Force", Jaitley sought to reconstruct the events of the morning on 27 February. "(After the Balakot air strikes), IAF knew that Pakistan would retaliate. When they came on the morning on the 27th, there was a wall of our fighter aircraft across the LoC. As soon as the PAF saw this, they took a U-turn...an IAF pilot kept chasing them and his plane was attacked," he said.
Jaitley further said, "If we never reached Balakot, why did they send F-16s over the border the next day? If it was a simple breach, then why was such a storm created in Pakistan?"
Responding to allegations that the Centre is using 'nationalism' to hide its failures, Jaitley said, "They (Opposition parties) have taken up fake issues — such as judge Loya's death, Rafale and EVMs. An election cannot be run on fake issues. It is unfortunate that those who are against Narendra Modi, instead of standing with the country, have become weapons in the hands of the Pakistanis."
Speaking on the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Jaitley insisted that people would "decide for themselves" who they should vote for and cited the example of the 2014 national election when "caste-based politics" and "dynastic politics" were decimated.
"Elections are not about arithmetic, they are about chemistry. When chemistry works, then caste breaks down, and myths of dynastic power break down. In dynasties, there can only be one head. Wherever there are two heads, one can see the impact. In Bihar, there are two brothers — see what happened (referring to Tejashwi and Tej Pratap Yadav). In Uttar Pradesh, there's a father and son — see what happened between them (Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav)."
When asked about the alliance between the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party, Jaitley said the "aspirational classes" have left them. The Union minister also dismissed what he called "a coalition of rivals" and asserted that "smaller alliances pulling each others' legs" cannot win an election.
On the Goods and Services Tax, the finance minister said, "I think GST has finished all harassment. Up to Rs 40 lakh, the manufacturer is not taxed, and up to Rs 1.5 crore, they are taxed at 1 percent. No inspector comes, and no barricades are left in the country. Tax collection has increased...the Modi government is the first one in history that did not increase the income tax rate by even 1 percent, and instead decreased it."
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Updated Date: Mar 14, 2019 17:15:11 IST