Amid claims by the Opposition that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of the successful testing of an anti-satellite missile was nothing but “publicity mongering” ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said it was a matter of national security and not an election stunt.
“We urge the Opposition not to make ‘clerical objections’. It is a matter of national security and therefore the Opposition must not object to it as an election stunt,” Jaitley said while addressing a press conference.
The finance minister also accused the previous UPA government of not granting scientists permission to build the country’s own anti-satellite missile.
Jaitley said when India had test-fired the Agni-V missile in April 2012, then DRDO chief VK Saraswat had said India could now develop an anti-satellite missile but the government had not given its nod.
“Indian scientists had the capability to build an anti-satellite missile a decade ago, then the government never gave permission,” he said.
Earlier in the day, in a broadcast to the nation on television, radio and social media, PM Modi announced that India had become the fourth country in the world to successfully hit a satellite in space with an anti-satellite missile.
Named Mission Shakti, scientists successfully carried out the test of an anti-satellite missile by bringing down one of its satellites in the low earth orbit 300 kilometres from the Earth’s surface.
Giving details of the mission, Jaitley said, “The process started in 2014 after the PM gave the permission. Not only we have become space power but we are now in big four. We should not forget that tomorrow’s wars will not be the same as yesterday’s wars.”
The PM’s announcement on national television in election season did not go down well with several Opposition leaders. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee BSP chief Mayawati termed it a gross violation of the model code of conduct.
While lauding the scientists for the achievement, Banerjee said there was “no great urgency” of announcing the mission by a government “past its expiry date” and stated that TMC would lodge a complaint with the Election Commission.
“Today’s announcement is yet another limitless drama and publicity mongering by Modi desperately trying to reap political benefits at the time of elections. This is a gross violation of the Model Code of Conduct. It seems desperate for oxygen to save the imminent sinking of the BJP boat. We are lodging a complaint with the Election Commission,” the TMC supremo said.
Mayawati also asked the poll watchdog to take cognisance of the issue. “PM Modi doing politics for electoral gains. Election Commission should take serious cognisance,” she said.
Her alliance partner in Uttar Pradesh, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav too weighed in, saying PM Modi got himself an hour of free TV and diverted nation’s attention away from issues on the ground.
“Today Narendra Modi got himself an hour of free TV and divert(ed) nation’s attention away from issues on ground #Unemployment #RuralCrisis & #WomensSecurity by pointing at the sky,” he tweeted.