The Congress is apparently afflicted by poor strategising which tends to convert inherent advantages into liabilities as they brace themselves for the Lok Sabha polls. It went for the overkill on the Rafale deal with party president Rahul Gandhi calling Prime Minister Modi a ‘liar’ repeatedly and persisted with its shrill approach even after the Supreme Court had ruled on the matter absolving the government of wrong-doing. Then, when the Rafale issue had been beaten to pulp with wild allegations without a shred of evidence, the Congress and its supporting parties ridiculed the Narendra Modi government on the second ‘surgical’ strike.
After holding its horses for a couple of days, Congressmen took the position which was interpreted as belittling and doubting the Indian Air Force that conducted the strikes at terror targets in Pakistan. It cast doubts over the claims of high casualties of terrorists and their ilk and came to be seen as siding with the enemy when Digvijay Singh congratulated Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan for freeing Wing Commander AbhinandanVarthaman.
The recent remarks by Digvijay, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, and Manish Tiwari, among others, are a reminder of the 2012-2014 motor-mouth syndrome that saw senior UPA ministers commit hara-kiri which contributed to their rout in the 2014 general elections. The BJP, too, has been shrill in its electoral campaign but it has looked righteous by comparison, upholding national interest and tom tomming about its credentials.
Yes, it is exploiting the latest surgical strike for its electoral campaign, while taking an ultra nationalistic position that could well go down handsomely with the masses especially when contrasted with the Congress stance. With the BJP losing ground steadily before the terror strikes, the Congress campaign has been a godsend for the party, much to the discomfiture of die-hard Congress supporters.
With Air Force chief Air Chief Marshall BS Dhanoa setting the record straight in a media conference that the target was ‘clearly hit’ when the IAF struck Jaish-e-Mohammed’s terror camp in Balakot on February 26, the Congress balloon has burst for all practical purposes.
Dhanoa made it clear that he was not in the business of counting casualties and that that was the government’s job. The armed forces are held on a high pedestal by people at large and by casting doubts on the efficiency of their actions the Congress is harming itself.
It should be no surprise if the BJP is borne out by future opinion polls to have bounced back in a big way. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has gained some ground in recent times with his aggressive anti-BJP stance but he still woefully lacks the depth and logicality to convince people that he has solutions to their problems.
Lashing out at statements from opposition party leaders who demanded proof of the February 26 air strike Prime Minister Modi said his objective was to end terror while that of the opposition was to remove him. Apparently, that went down well with the people who have seen vitriol against him all the way but no solution to contentious issues.
Considering that there is indeed little talk of development and the government’s economic milestones in the BJP electoral campaign now, an aggressive and well-defined strategy of alternate action could have given the electorate something to ponder over. In the BJP’s campaign it is national honour and tough handling of Pakistan that are the main planks. An alternate action plan from the Opposition on a wide range of issues of bread and butter could have gone a long way for the power-seekers.
The Modi government is also now showcasing to the electorate how the world stood united with it on the aerial strikes on terror targets with even the Chinese acquiescing in a UN resolution identifying Jaish e-Mohammed as a perpetrator of terror that was exemplified by the Pulwama suicide bomb attack that snuffed out 40 CRPF lives.
The invitation extended to India by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) composed of 50 plus countries to send External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as a special invitee to its annual meeting in Abu Dhabi was a landmark acknowledgement by the Muslim body of India’s growing status. That Pakistan stayed away from the inaugural session as a result of the invite to India was grudging manifestation of New Delhi’s clout.
The OIC has consistently supported Pakistan on Kashmir and while even at this meeting it passed a resolution alleging Indian atrocities in Kashmir it was significant that it balanced it with its overtures to India this time around and spurned Pakistan’s advice to withdraw the invitation.
Let’s face it. The invitation to India was the result of India assiduously cultivating some countries in the Islamic bloc —United Arab Emirates, which has been extraditing alleged criminals wanted in India, Saudi Arabia, whose Crown Prince visited India recently and Iran, which has tied up with India for developing the Chabahar port and is in gratitude to India for having resisted US pressure to stop oil imports from it.
Many OIC member-states apparently see huge potential in India in the economic arena and would like to no longer treat the country as a pariah. Significantly, the Iranian government and the country’s armed forces have threatened to act against Pakistani terror groups since the country cannot act against them.
Issuing a stern warning to the Pakistani government and its military establishment, General Qassem Soleimani, the all-powerful commander of the Iranian armed forces said, “I have this question for the Pakistani government — where are you heading to? You have caused unrest along borders with all your neighbours and do you have any other neighbour left that you want to stir insecurity for”.
Kamlendra Kanwar is a political commentator and columnist. He has authored four books.