New Delhi: The UPA government is in a damage control mode after the row over Defence Minister AK Antony's statement on the Poonch LoC killings. Sources say that government will announce on Thursday that Antony made his statement on the basis of the information he got at 2 am on Tuesday night, right after the incident took place, which was why he couldn't name the Pakistani Army.
The Defence Minister is expected to make a new statement in Parliament at noon on Thursday after being briefed by Army Chief General Bikram Singh who had visited the 16 Corps headquarters in Nagrota near Jammu to get details about the LoC attack by his commanders. Antony is expected to issue a clarification that he did not give a clean chit to anyone.
Earlier, Defence Ministry sources said that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) vetted Antony's statement to suit Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in September. But a PMO spokesperson told news agency PTI that the allegations are mischievous and have no basis.
The killing of five Indian soldiers on the LoC disrupted Parliament for the second day on Wednesday with the BJP targeting Antony for almost providing an alibi to Islamabad and differing with the Army on Pakistan's role in the attack. The government, in turn, accused the Opposition of playing politics.
A united opposition launched a multi-pronged attack on the government on Wednesday. NDA Parliamentary Party chief LK Advani, who demanded an apology from Antony, led a party delegation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and made it clear that they will not relent on their position when Parliament meets on Thursday.
The BJP leaders, who included party chief Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her counterpart in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, also told the Prime Minister that he should not meet his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York in September in the current situation.
At the heart of the controversy are the two statements - one by the Defence Minister, where he blamed it on approximately 20 heavily-armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms, the ambiguity on the role of the Pakistan Army was apparent.
Almost simultaneously, the Army in its press release blamed heavily-armed terrorists along with regulars of the Pakistan Army. With the matter heating up soon after, as the discrepancy was pointed out, the Army retracted and revised its version to fall in line with Antony's statement. The Congress, though, stood by the Defence Minister, accusing BJP of politicising the issue.