New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have laid some ground rules after the Pulwama attack, urging all parties to “stay away from politics”, but his own party seems to be flouting that very rule, strategically weaving the incident into its political campaign in the last few days.
Both Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah in their public addresses in the last few days have actively referred to Thursday’s terror strike that killed 40 CRPF personnel, launching blistering attacks on Pakistan and claiming their government will avenge.
The statements come as both the leaders attempt to make the attack a part of their political narrative in the run-up to the 2019 polls.
From saying “every drop of tear shed will be avenged” to claiming the sacrifices of the CRPF personnel will not be wasted since “it is not the Congress but BJP at the Centre”, Modi and Shah have together ensured Pulwama finds mention in their political speeches.
While the Congress — whose president Rahul Gandhi had said the party will support the government and security forces — has said the BJP is “shamelessly politicising” the issue, the ruling party claims its leaders are merely “expressing their feelings about the tragic incident”.
Congress attacks, BJP defends
Priyanka Chaturvedi, convenor of AICC communication and national spokesperson, said, “The BJP is shamelessly politicising the tragic incident. It goes to show their level of desperation.”
“In the spirit of the nation, the Congress party decided it was not time to do politics but BJP is not following the same rule. They continue to try to take political mileage from it.”
“Under this government, there has been an increase in terrorism and the number of soldiers who have died but they continue with their chest thumping,” said Chaturvedi.
The BJP, meanwhile, denied any politicisation of the worst terror attack on security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.
“How is this politicising? If something happens in the country, won’t we express what we feel about it? Both our leaders are attending pre-decided programmes,” said BJP national spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri.
“When such a big and tragic incident occurs, if they don’t talk about it then people will say they are not speaking and if they do, they are being criticised,” said Shastri.
What Modi has said
The day after the deadly attack, while both Modi and Shah cancelled their political rallies, the PM continued with his government programmes that included public speeches. However, since the PM often mixes his official programmes with political speeches, the lines between the two get blurred.
While speaking at the flagging-off ceremony of Indian Railways’ Vande Bharat Express Friday morning, Modi urged “everyone” to rise above politics.
“It is an emotional and sensitive time. Whether in the government or opposition, we must stay away from politics,” he said.
However, in the same speech, which was his first public address after the attack, Modi said, “A befitting reply will be given to the perpetrators of the heinous attack and their patrons. No force will succeed in disturbing peace, progress and stability of India.”
A grateful nation bows to the martyrs of Pulwama.
A befitting reply will be given to the perpetrators of the heinous attack and their patrons.
No force will succeed in disturbing peace, progress and stability of India. pic.twitter.com/hFq0pUByVJ
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 15, 2019
The prime minister may have called for not politicising the sensitive issue, but he has made sure to bring the issue up in each of his speeches since, raising the pitch on each occasion.
Consider these examples.
In Jhansi, Friday afternoon, Modi inaugurated development projects in Bundelkhand region.
“The sacrifice of our jawans will not go waste. I want to give this assurance to 130 crore Indians from the land of the brave — Jhansi. The perpetrators of Pulwama and its conspirators will be punished,” he declared.
“Our neighbouring country has forgotten this is an India of new policies and new customs.”
The talk of a “new India”, however, did not quite end there.
“Ours is a new India with new methods and policies, and the world will experience this now. Those who spray bullets or those who provide guns and bombs to target our soldiers, will not be spared,” Modi said at a public meeting in Maharashtra’s Dhule after inaugurating development projects Saturday.
“We will not allow them to sleep in peace,” the PM said, promising that “each drop of tear would be avenged”.
In Yavatmal in Maharashtra the same day, Modi attacked Pakistan and said the country had become a “synonym for terrorism”.
“Our jawans will decide what, where, when and how the perpetrators of the Pulwama attack will be punished,” Modi said.
On Sunday, the prime minister was in Bihar to inaugurate some more development projects. But like the previous few instances, he used the platform to highlight his rage as well as intent over the Pulwama attack.
“To the people who have gathered here, I would like to say the fire that is raging in your bosoms is in my heart too,” he said.
What Shah has said
If Modi used his speeches to underscore his government’s intent and commitment to “avenge” Pulwama, Shah took it a notch higher.
The BJP president, known for his aggressive politics, chose to directly make a pitch for his party.
“I pay my tributes to Assam’s son Maneswar Basumatary, along with the other CRPF personnel. Their sacrifice won’t go in vain as it’s not the Congress government which is at the Centre, it is the BJP which is at the Centre,” Shah said while addressing a rally in Lakhimpur, Assam, Sunday.
BJP President Amit Shah in Lakhimpur,Assam: I pay my tributes to Assam's son Maneswar Basumatary, along with the other CRPF personnel. Their sacrifice won't go in vain as it's not the Congress government which is at the Centre, it is the BJP which is at the Centre. #PulwamaAttack pic.twitter.com/Y7F3K2HXrr
— ANI (@ANI) February 17, 2019
Shah decided to use the Pulwama incident to talk about the larger issue of national security, drawing a dubious link between it and the situation of illegal immigration in Assam and how his party would “not allow Assam to become another Kashmir”.
“BJP government brought NRC here. We will not allow Assam to become another Kashmir. It is our commitment that with the help of NRC, we will deport each and every infiltrator out of Assam,” he added.
BJP President Amit Shah in Lakhimpur, Assam, earlier today: BJP government brought NRC (National Register of Citizens) here. We will not allow Assam to become another Kashmir. It's our commitment that with the help of NRC, we will deport each and every infiltrator out of Assam pic.twitter.com/DWs0w8Mwit
— ANI (@ANI) February 17, 2019
To be sure, the NRC process is monitored by the Supreme Court, which has determined the timeline for it. The exercise started under the Congress government in the state in 2015, and when the BJP government came to power in 2016, it carried it forward according to the court’s instructions.
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