As the debate over India's February 26 air strikes in Pakistan rages on in the country, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram Monday asked the Centre to avoid "opposition-bashing" and convince the world on its stand.
Chidambaram said he was prepared to "believe the government" as a "proud citizen", but the Centre has to "make efforts for the world to also believe" its stand.
He recalled party chief Rahul Gandhi was the first to laud the Indian Air Force after the strikes.
Chidambaram faced sharp rebuke from Union Minister Piyush Goyal for his comments, with the senior BJP leader charging the Congress with believing in "Pakistan propaganda," but not the Indian armed forces.
"As a proud citizen, I am prepared to believe my government. But if we want the world to believe, the government must make the effort (to explain), not indulge in Opposition-bashing," Chidambaram said in a tweet.
Chidambaram's response came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed the opposition for doubting the IAF air strikes in Pakistan amidst a debate in the country over the casualty inflicted by the IAF.
Incidentally, on Monday, IAF Chief BS Dhanoa said the figure on casualty will be given by the government, even as Union Minister SS Ahluwalia had said the purpose of the strike was not to cause human casualty but to send out the message that India is capable of hitting deep inside enemy lines.
Neither Modi nor any government spokesperson had given any figure on casualty of air strikes. Rather, it was the Indian media and social media where the unconfirmed figures of terrorists killed were being circulated, he had said.
Last Tuesday's air strikes were seen as retaliation to the February 14 attack on CRPF jawans in Pulwama in Kashmir, in which 40 personnel were killed.
At a political rally in Patna on Sunday, Modi had said the opposition parties were speaking a language that "suits" Pakistan.
"Leaders of the neighbouring country are using it as a shield to protect themselves against the charge of promoting terrorism. They are clapping gleefully," the PM had said.
On Monday, without taking any names, in another tweet, Chidambaram said, "IAF Vice Air Marshal declined to comment on casualties."
"The MEA statement said there were no civilian or military casualties. So, who put out the number of casualties at 300-350," he asked.
"Congress President Rahul Gandhi was the first to salute the Indian Air Force for its splendid achievement. Why has Mr Modi forgotten that," Chidambaram, former Union Minister, said.
Goyal responded sharply to Chidambaram's attack, saying it was "condemnable and shameful."
The railway minister said it was "shameful" that the Indian opposition was raising questions about our armed forces.
"It is an insult to the Air Force, an insult for our jawans who are willing to lay down their lives to protect the country," he told reporters at Tuticorin.
"..and this shows Congress party believes in Pakistan propaganda and not in our own armed forces and what our Army, Navy and Air force said."
"It is thoroughly condemnable and I am ashamed that we have such leaders like P Chidambaram in this wonderful state of Tamil Nadu," Goyal said.
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala in a tweet on Monday said, "Modi-ji, your central government ministers are stating that TV channels' news is fake, stating that the prime minister never stated that 300 terrorists were killed during the Balakot air strike. Is this true? If no, the prime minister should tell the truth. Regards, citizens of country."
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday had demanded evidence of the pre-emptive strike on Jaish-e-Mohammed training camps by the Indian Air Force. She also said the opposition parties want to know the details of the operation.