The growing unease within Congress came to the fore again on Tuesday when party leader and Maharashtra Energy Minister Nitin Raut disagreed with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar's stance against the politicisation of the faceoff with China. Mentioning that several Congress leaders had taken part in the freedom struggle, he stated that former party president Rahul Gandhi was only raising questions on how the Chinese Army could intrude into the Indian territory. Raut lamented that Pawar had failed to mention about the 1971 victory over Pakistan.
He claimed that Sharad Pawar still had affection for the party due to his Congress roots. Contending that the NCP chief's statement was "a slip of the tongue", he reiterated the Congress' respect for him. Moreover, he exuded confidence that Pawar would eventually back the Congress party's position.
Nitin Raut remarked, "First of all, Pawar himself is a leader who was moulded in the Congress party. I am confident that whenever anything is spoken against the Congress party, it pierces his heart. Certainly, he has affection for Congress in his mind. I do not know why he gave such a statement on Rahul Gandhi's remark. What Rahul Gandhi said was to keep the country together. Every citizen has the right to know what happened on the LAC. Pawar is our senior leader. We respect him. His statement was maybe his slip of the tongue. I am confident that he will back the position adopted by the Congress party."
During an interview on June 27, Sharad Pawar backed the Centre, stressing that the Chinese troops were pushed away after seeking to encroach on Indian land. According to the former Defence Minister, it was wrong to blame Rajnath Singh for the present crisis. Hitting out at Rahul Gandhi's claim of 'China occupying Indian territory', he recalled that China had captured around 45,000 sq. km of the country's land after the 1962 war. Pawar reminded Gandhi that this land remained in China's possession even when Congress was in power.
Sharad Pawar opined, "What happened was they (the Chinese troops) tried to encroach on our road and were pushed physically. It was not somebody's failure. If somebody comes (within your territory) while you are patrolling, they may come at any time. We cannot say it is the failure of the Defence Minister sitting in Delhi."
He added, "That land is still with China. I don't know if they (China) have encroached on some area now again. But when one makes an allegation, one should also see what had happened when one was there (in power). If such big land was encroached upon then, it cannot be ignored. It is a matter of national security and it should not be politicised is what I feel."