NEW DELHI: The war of words between the Congress and the BJP over the Pulwama terror attack escalated on Friday with Rahul Gandhi calling Narendra Modi "prime time minister" for allegedly continuing with a photo shoot when the nation was grappling with pain, while the BJP slammed the opposition party for "indulging in petty politics".
In a tweet with the hashtag 'PhotoShootSarkar', Gandhi said the prime minister continued shooting for a film till even three hours after news of the Pulwama terror strike came in.
Citing media reports, the Congress has alleged that Modi was attending a photo shoot for a film at the Corbett National Park on February 14, and he continued to participate in the shoot even after the terror attack which took place at around 3.10 PM.
At a press conference, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari cited DD News footage to claim that the prime minister addressed a rally in Uttarakhand at 5:10 pm via phone.
पुलवामा में 40 जवानों की शहादत की खबर के तीन घंटे बाद भी ‘प्राइम टाइम मिनिस्टर’ फिल्म शूटिंग करते रहे।— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 22, 2019
देश के दिल व शहीदों के घरों में दर्द का दरिया उमड़ा था और वे हँसते हुए दरिया में फोटोशूट पर थे।#PhotoShootSarkar pic.twitter.com/OMY7GezsZN
He said Modi must tell what he was doing in the initial two hours after the Pulwama terror strike and alleged that he was either "completely oblivious" to the incident or "insensitive".
Hitting back at the Congress for its attack, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said some political parties are "not standing with the country" for petty politics when nations across the world have backed India.
Patra dismissed as lies the Congress's claim that Prime Narendra Modi was either "completely oblivious" to the terror strike or "insensitive" as he "continued" with his prior engagements after the attack, and asserted that such lies need not be responded to.
The Congress president tweeted: "Even after three hours of the news of the 40 jawans being martyred in the Pulwama terror strike, the prime time minister continued with a film shooting. There was an ocean of pain in the country's heart and in the homes of martyrs, and he (Modi) was smiling while at a photo shoot in the waters," Gandhi wrote on the microblogging site and attached four photographs of the prime minister purportedly showing him during the shoot.
The BJP dismissed Gandhi's claim that Modi attended a photo-shoot allegedly hours after the Pulwama attack as "fake news", asserting that photographs were taken in the morning.
"Rahul Ji, India is tired of your fake news. Stop sharing photos from that morning to shamelessly mislead the nation. Maybe you knew in advance of the attack but people of India got to know in the evening. Try a better stunt next time, where sacrifice of soldiers isn't involved," the BJP tweeted.
Tewari, in his remarks, claimed the prime minister not only addressed the rally but continued with the photo-shoot at the Corbett National Park in the hours following the terror strike in which 40 CRPF jawans died after a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the paramilitary force's convoy in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district.
The Congress had on Thursday cited media reports to allege that Modi continued shooting for a film in the Corbett National Park on February 14 for "self propagation", and stayed put till evening despite the Pulwama terror attack in the afternoon that day.
"We want to ask the prime minister what was he doing between 3:10-5:10 pm, when you address a public rally in Uttarakhand through mobile phone," Tewari said.
The prime minister addressed the rally and did not speak on Pulwama, he said.
"Either the prime minister was completely oblivious, or he was insensitive. Either the prime minister did not know for two hours that a terror attack has taken place or the prime minister knew and was completely nonchalant about it," the Congress leader said.
In both the situations, the prime minister needs to answer for those two hours, he said, adding that both the scenarios do not auger well for the country.
Patra, while lashing out at the opposition's attacks on the government over the Pulwama terror attack, referred to the UN Security Council's strong condemnation of the terror attack and naming of Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad by the global body to underscore the Modi government's efforts to isolate Pakistan.
"On the one hand all countries are standing with India. Humanity is standing with us, some political parties for their petty politics are not standing with the country," Patra said, attacking the Congress.
Tweets of Congress leaders, including Tewari and Shashi Tharoor, have become headlines in Pakistan, he said.
Tewari accused the government of trying to "package high-octane jingoism to subterfuge national security failures" and said if the prime minister was "incommunicado" hours after the attack then it was matter of grave concern, especially for a nuclear nation, as it could have serious consequences.
"We are a nuclear state and if there is a breakdown in communication between the Prime Minister and his office, it has very portentous implications. That is why, this nation must know from the mouth of the Prime Minister. What were you doing between 03:10 pm and 05:10 pm in the afternoon?" he said.
"If you knew that an attack had taken place in Pulwama, why you did not condemn at 05:10 pm in the afternoon, when you addressed a rally over a mobile phone.
"And if you did not know for two hours that attack as heinous as Pulwama has taken place then what does it speak about your Government? Can there be greater incompetence?" Tewari said.