NEW DELHI: Founder PDP member and former Lok Sabha MP Tariq Hameed Karra, who joined the Congress today, termed as "politically motivated" the statement of army chief General Bipin Rawat on "tough action" against those supporting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.
"As far as the army chief's statement is concerned, I feel it is a politically motivated statement. It is very unfortunate that a force like the army, which has been deputed to save the nation's sovereignty, is politicised," he told reporters soon after his formal joining at the AICC headquarters.
Karra accused the Prime Minister of "politicising" an independent institution like the army, saying he was using the army chief's statement.
The former PDP leader also sought to backtrack from his statement later saying, "I am saying that it is an unfortunate thing if army is brought into politically motivated things".
He said, "I linked the Prime Minister with the army chief's statement. I linked the army chief's statement with Mr Modi who is exploiting the same thing. He (Modi) is politicising and his ministers are politicising for the sake of the party. Unfortunately, our Prime Minister for him the party is paramount not the national interest".
Asked if the Congress supported Karra's remarks, party general secretary and in charge of Jammu and Kashmir affairs Ambika Soni sought to downplay his remarks and accused the BJP of politicising the army chief's statement.
"Army chief's statement has been politicised by the BJP and Jitendra Singh and we agree with him on this. It is wrong and unfortunate for the ruling party to politicise things connected with the army and involving the armed forces organisation in these politics," Soni said.
She said, "I don't think Mr Karra said his statement is politically motivated. The army chief's statement was being used politically by Dr Jitendra Singh. When Jitendra Singh tries to politicise and accuse Congress of supporting those involved in terrorist activities, they are deliberately trying to politicise".
Soni said the Congress party has always stood against terrorism and has sacrificed its top leaders to terrorism. "To accuse us, no one will believe such wrong statements," she said.
"Not once but many times, Congress has repeatedly said that Congress party has zero tolerance to terrorism in any way in any form and the best people to handle this are the members of the armed forces," she added.
Karra earlier said "it is an unfortunate thing if the army is brought into politically motivated things".
He said army is an institution which should neither be politicised nor should any such things be said that its morale goes down.
The former PDP leader accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being "hell-bent" on "politicising" the army which was an independent body.
Hitting out at Modi, he even dubbed him as one "not capable" of holding the Prime Minister's post and was "a small person sitting on a big chair".
The army chief's statement of taking "tough action"
against those helping terrorists flee during operations, has snowballed into a major controversy with BJP and other parties indulging in the political slugfest.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar came out in support of the army chief, saying those creating hurdles for security forces in Kashmir are trying to protect terrorists and government has given a free hand to the army to carry out anti-terror operations.
BJP accused the Congress of speaking the voice of separatists and politicising the army for "lowly political gains" as it defended army chief's statement on tough action against locals hampering counter-militancy operations.
Singh, who hails from Jammu & Kashmir, attacked Congress leaders for criticising General Rawat's statement as he claimed that what the army chief said was not a warning but concern expressed by him over civilians' safety.
Congress, on its part, hit back at BJP asking whether the morale of jawans was not affected when 188 were killed in terror attacks in last 30 months and when Prime Minister Modi feasted with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
Regional parties like National Conference has dubbed as "tragic" the army chief's warning of tough action against stone-pelters and said the government needs to engage politically with the "alienated" youth of the Valley.