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Bring Abhinandan back first: Netizens and netas blast BJP for response to security crisis

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Bring Abhinandan back first: Netizens and netas blast BJP for response to security crisis

Tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated worryingly after the terrorist attack in Pulwama on February 14. The plummeting ties, as well as the sobering knowledge that an Indian pilot is in Islamabad's custody, have fuelled sharp criticism of the BJP.

Have some shame," wrote one Twitter commenter below an announcement from the BJP, posted with a column of links, of a forthcoming programme featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi: #MeraBoothSabseMazboot.

The Twitter user who chastised India's ruling party followed up his rebuke with a question: "Is this the time?"

Given the worrying state of India's ties with Pakistan -- and the sobering knowledge that an Indian pilot is in Islamabad's custody -- the commenter's sentiments were widely shared.

"Bring Abhinandan ji back first," said another man, referring to the Indian Air Force wing commander whose capture was announced yesterday by Asif Ghafoor, a spokesperson for Pakistan's armed forces. Ghafoor is the same man who used a reporter's words this week to say -- of India -- that Pakistan would "shut these monkeys down".

Tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals have escalated within two weeks of a deadly suicide bombing carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed in Jammu and Kashmir, which killed 40 Indian soldiers. Both India and Pakistan have said they conducted airstrikes in each other's territory in the last two days, but India says Pakistan's attempt to target its military installations on Wednesday was unsuccessful. (A day earlier, India had said it conducted a pre-emptive, non-military strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.)

India has acknowledged that one of its pilots is missing after Wednesday's "aerial engagement" with Pakistan's air force -- and told its neighbour it expects him to be returned unharmed. But it has not explicitly named Abhinandan Varthaman.

Meanwhile, twenty-one opposition parties said after meeting on Wednesday in New Delhi that they felt "deep anguish" over what they described as the BJP's "blatant politicisation" of sacrifices made by India's armed forces. Reading out their joint statement, Rahul Gandhi said party leaders "observed that the prime minister has, regrettably, not convened an all-party meeting as per established practice in our democracy".

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, who was not at the meeting, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should suspend political activity until Wing Commander Varthaman's safe return.

Meanwhile on Twitter, public anger found targets in the launch of a mobile app, Khelo India, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (which happened on Wednesday before news broke that Wing Commander Abhinandan had been captured) and a prediction by BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa that the Indian strikes in Pakistan would earn his party a windfall of Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka.

"God forgive this man," said one Twitter user, referring to BS Yeddyurappa.

Union Minister Arun Jaitley, who said after CRPF soldiers were killed in Jammu and Kashmir that terrorists would be given an "unforgettable" lesson, wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday that India carried out the pre-emptive strike in Pakistan to defend its sovereignty.

He said Pakistan was using the opposition's "ill-advised" statement "to bolster its case", and made an appeal:

"Let the country speak in one voice."

Inputs from PTI