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Manmohan Singh was not as strong as PM Modi on terrorism: Sheila Dikshit's shock admission

Mar 14 (AZINS) Senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit landed herself and her party in a spot of embarrassment when she admitted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was perhaps stronger in responding to terrorism than his predecessor Manmohan Singh. The former Delhi Chief Minister however said later that her comments may have been taken out of context.

Dikshit's surprising remark came in an interview to News18. Discussing the issue of national security as a key issue for the coming 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the interviewer told Dikshit that that PM Modi could argue that India under the UPA and Manmohan Singh did nothing by way of a response to the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The interviewer further added that PM Modi could argue that in contrast, he had responded in a strong and muscular way to the Pulwama attack through the Balakot airstrike.

"Manmohan Singh ji… yes, I agree with you there, wasn't as strong or as determined as he is, perhaps," Sheila Dikshit said in an excerpt from the interview that was aired on the news channel. "But then, there is also a feeling that he is doing it all for politics," she added, as the excerpt ended.

The admission plays into the BJP's continuing theme of accusing the Congress and its governments of being soft on terrorism. Coming as it does before the election, Dikshit's remark could also undercut the Congress's efforts to question the Balakot airstrike and its efficacy.

Prime Minister Modi has underlined in his speeches his government's choice of a military reaction to the Pulwama terror attack and the surgical strikes that followed the Uri attack in 2016. He has contrasted his government's responses with the lack of similar action to multiple attacks when the Congress-led UPA was in power.

Dikshit however took the oft-used defence of politicians caught saying embarrassing things - she suggested her comment may have been taken out of context. "I have seen some media is twisting my comments made in an interview. Here is what I said - it may seem to some people that Mr Modi is stronger on terror but I think this is a poll gimmick more than anything else," Sheila Dikshit claimed in a tweet, despite the video clip that clearly showed her saying the line quoted above.

National security has gained in prominence as an election issue since the Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed in a suicide car bomb attack on February 14. The attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is among the terrorist groups supported by the Pakistani military-intelligence nexus as a tool of state policy against India. The Balakot airstrike and the following Pakistani failed airstrike on Indian military installations have further queered the pitch on national security.