Narendra Modi’s political opponents are showing ‘Uri syndrome’ as he prepares to give a ‘muh tod jawab’ or face-smashing response to Pulwama terror attack perpetrators.
This syndrome is marked by a leader’s or a party’s inability to express true emotions as they end up saying what the adversary wants. They can’t take a clear stand one way or the other. And they find themselves in a quagmire wherein the more they struggle, the deeper they sink.
Look at the Congress party’s response post-Pulwama attack. In her condolence message, Priyanka Gandhi took a not-so-veiled swipe at the NDA government: “We must also reflect and be concerned about the high number of casualties in Kashmir. We demand that this government take concrete steps to ensure such terror attacks don’t happen in the future”.
After the all-party meeting Saturday, Ghulam Nabi Azad reiterated Rahul Gandhi’s stand to extend full support to the government in dealing with terrorism. But Azad also chose to highlight that the casualties in Pulwama were the biggest since 1947 in a non-war situation. Read between the lines, and the opposition party is damning the Modi government’s record in dealing with terrorism.
Meanwhile, the irrepressible leader Digvijaya Singh was taking pot-shots at the NDA government, questioning the “intelligence failure” in Pulwama and seeking accountability from national security adviser Ajit Doval.
This hug-and-wink politics is typical of the Congress in Modi’s times. It had taken a similar line after the terror attack on the Uri army base in 2016. Accordingly, after the surgical strikes on the terror camps across the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the Congress hailed the Army and at the same time raised doubts about the strikes. This turned out to be a politically suicidal tactic for the opposition party in subsequent assembly elections. It can’t be diffident about raising questions when it needs to and should, and become a doubting Thomas when it should clap.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi must be aware of the dilemma in the opposition camp and you can’t fault him for relishing it. A day after the Pulwama attack, he cautioned against “rajnitik chhintakashi” or political blame game as the world should see India unitedly fighting against terror.
The opposition parties were too anxious or cagey to ask who started it. His deputy in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jitendra Singh, was first off the blocks. Shortly after the Pulwama attack, the ANI quoted him as questioning those “who while living in India and describing themselves as mainstream Kashmir politicians tend to be apologetic about these terror activities sponsored from across Indian soil”.
Politicians across ideological spectrum condoled with the families of the martyred jawans. Did you see the country’s home minister taking TV cameras inside the hospital room when he met injured CRPF jawans? While mortal remains of the jawans were still in Kashmir, the Uttar Pradesh government was publicising the list of ministers who would be accompanying each of them on their last journey. And Akhilesh Yadav was posting his picture, sitting with a grieving family, on his Twitter handle. And Kailash Vijayvargiya, under instructions from party chief Amit Shah, was instructing party chief ministers and union ministers to be part of these funeral rites.
Nonetheless, the entire political class was united in its stand that there should be no politics over terrorism. Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar might have deviated from it Friday. The Indian Express quoted him as saying in Baramati, Pune, that when Modi was Gujarat chief minister, he used to go all over the country (where terror attacks took place) and say that then (UPA) government lacked capability and it was possible only for people like him, with 56-inch chest, to teach a lesson to the terrorists.
Pawar could be referring to Modi’s reaction post-26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. He had rushed to Mumbai even as security forces were battling it out with terrorists and announced Rs 1 crore as “samman rashi (felicitation amount)” to the families of the security personnel who were killed. Talking to TV reporters, then-Gujarat chief minister was unsparing in his criticism of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Whatever Modi government may or may not do to avenge the death of 40 CRPF jawans, the electoral debate in the coming weeks and months is set to be dominated by jingoistic speeches and war cries. Post-Pulwama attack, not even the principal opposition party has any doubt that Modi will give a ‘fitting response’ to Pakistan for its misadventure in Pulwama. The display of ‘Uri Syndrome’ on the part of the opposition parties now could seal their fate in the next Lok Sabha elections.
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