On Sunday, the Congress accused the government of compromising national security, based on leaked WhatsApp chats of Republic’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami with former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Partho Dasgupta, discussing the government’s response after the Pulwama attack and saying “something big will happen…bigger than a normal strike” on February 23, three days ahead of the Balakot airstrikes. “On Pakistan the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated. Exact words used,” Goswami purportedly said.
To which Dasgupta replied: “Good… He will sweep the polls then.” The Balakot strikes happened on February 26.
Comments by senior political leaders from that time suggest that the government had been vocal about a “befitting response” from India.
On February 15, just a day after the Pulwama attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at two separate events — the flag-off ceremony of Vande Bharat Express and at a public meeting in Jhansi – that the security forces have been given “full freedom” to choose a “time and place” for the “future course of action”. He promised a “muhtod jawab” (befitting reply) for the attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel.
Underlining that the nation’s “blood is boiling”, Modi said the “terror outfits and their masters” have made “a big mistake” and “will have to pay a very heavy price” for their actions.
On February 16, Modi, while addressing a public meeting after inaugurating several development projects in north Maharashtra’s Dhule, said, “I want to assure each family who lost their loved one that each drop of tear will be avenged.”
Then Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on February 14, “The attack was carried out by Pakistan backed Jaish-e-Mohammed. I assure the country a strong reply will be given.”
Amit Shah, the then president of the BJP, had also targeted Pakistan in his public addresses and asserted that the government will avenge the attack.
On February 17, Shah, while addressing a youth rally in Assam’s Lakhimpur, said “Their [CRPF jawans’] sacrifice won’t go in vain as it’s not the Congress government which is at the Centre, it is the BJP which is at the Centre.”
Late on Sunday night, Pakistan Foreign Ministry cited the WhatsApp chats to claim that these provide evidence of how this whole enterprise was “scripted”, “stoked hyper-nationalism” in the country and “deviously” manipulated national sentiment in its bid to win elections.
Responding to Pakistan’s statement, Republic Media Network said that it had on March 6 provided proof of the Balakot air strikes that had “deeply embarrassed the Pakistan state machinery and its intelligence apparatus”.