Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s ‘dalali’ remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over India’s surgical strikes across the LoC has given the rival BJP a fresh handle to attack the main opposition party.
Gandhi, addressing the concluding rally of his 26-day Kisan yatra, said in the national capital on Thursday that the PM was “hiding behind the blood” of soldiers and politically exploiting their sacrifices.
The ruling BJP termed the statement as “most shameful”, but an unfazed Gandhi stood by his remarks on Friday.
“I fully support the surgical strikes and I have said so unequivocally, but I will not support using the Indian Army in political posters and propaganda all across the country,” he tweeted.
The BJP sought to draw a parallel between Rahul’s ‘dalali’ comment and the “maut ka saudagar” remark by his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Gujarat during the 2007 assembly elections both directed at Modi.
Overall, the army’s attacks on targeted terrorist launchpads across the Pak border is turning into a political slugfest, with the Opposition initially asking the BJP-led NDA government to furnish evidence to call “Pakistan’s bluff”. Amid thick media publicity, Pakistan has denied any such cross-border action by the Indian army.
Political observers are of the view that last weekend’s surgical strikes could alter the political narrative and dominate the election discourse in the upcoming assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.
Leaders of the opposition parties feel the BJP will try to seek political mileage out of the surgical strikes and asking for proof on the cross-border raid is seen as an attempt to counter “chest-thumping” by ruling-party members.
A poster war has already started in Uttar Pradesh. Hoardings have appeared in Varanasi, Lucknow, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar among other cities, hailing the surgical strikes as the BJP-led government’s achievement and a befitting reply to Pakistan for recent terror attacks in Pathankot and Uri in Kashmir.
The Opposition is least amused. Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad accused the BJP of politicising the surgical strikes, saying the posters indicated the ruling party’s political insecurity.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah too criticised the move. “And some people will lecture others about politicising the army action all the while turning a blind eye to hoardings like these that sprout,” he tweeted.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chose to deplore Gandhi’s remarks. “I strongly condemn what Rahul Gandhi said about our jawans, this is a matter in which we all need to stand united,” tweeted AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. “Such words (dalali) should not have been used by Rahul Gandhi. These are the times for us unite & stand along army,” he said in another tweet.
The AAP is trying hard to usurp the Congress’ political space in almost all the states. It has emerged as a strong contender for power in Punjab and Goa in the upcoming assembly elections and is seen as hurting the Congress’ prospects in these states.
On its part, the BJP called Gandhi’s remarks a “new low in Indian politics” and said it reflected “frustration” as the Prime Minister was drawing “praise” for giving a nod to the army to carry out the surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control.
Said BJP secretary Sidharth Nath Singh: “Congress and other political parties may be nervous because of the courage and will power shown by the Modi government in backing the armed forces’ decision to go for surgical strikes across LoC…. Rahul Gandhi has done surgical strike on his party.”
At the Thursday evening rally in Delhi, the Congress-vice president unleashed a blistering attack on the PM, accusing him of “profiteering” from the soldiers who have given their blood for the nation.
“Aap kar kya rahe ho jo hamare jawan hain, jinhone khoon diya hai, jinhone Jammu and Kashmir mei apna khoon diya hai, jinhone Hindustan ke liye surgical strike kiya hai, unke khoon ke peeche aap chhupe huye ho. (What are you (PM) doing? Our soldiers have given their blood in Jammu and Kashmir, carried out surgical strikes for India, you (PM) are hiding behind their blood),” he said.
“Unki aap dalali kar rahe ho. Ye bilkul galat hai (PM is profiteering from the soldiers. This is totally wrong.),” Gandhi said in Delhi, winding up his 26-day Kisan yatra across UP that is going to the polls early next year.
Gandhi’s remarks came six days after he had praised the PM over the surgical strikes. “I want to thank him (PM) because for the first time in two-and-a-half years he has taken an action that is of the stature of PM,” he said, while addressing a public meeting at Bulandshahr in UP on September 30. This was a rare occasion when Gandhi had publicly lauded Modi.