The Congress on Wednesday launched a frontal attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his handling of the volatile situation in Kashmir, leading an Opposition chorus that the NDA government did not have a plan to restore normalcy in the border state after the killing of a militant a fortnight ago.
Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said that the PM was on a foreign tour while the Valley was witnessing clashes after security forces shot dead Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani on July 8.
“He found time to wish a ministerial colleague on his birthday, but didn’t say anything on Kashmir. A state was on fire and the PM was beating drums abroad,” Scindia said in Parliament, referring to Modi’s trip four-nation Africa tour that concluded on July 12.
Asking PM Modi to take inspiration from the US President, Scindia said Barack Obama cut short his foreign trip following the July 7 Dallas shooting. “But where is the Mann ki Baat when trouble began in Kashmir,” the MP asked, referring to Modi’s radio broadcast programme.
The Congress chief whip in the Lok Sabha advised the Centre to send an all-party team to Kashmir, where sustained violence has claimed 45 lives and injured close to 2,000 people. “My party is with the government, but we want it to act with a plan,” he added.
Scindia hit the government hard for saying that Pakistan stoked the latest flare-up in Kashmir, and said the Modi regime’s policy with the neighbouring country was a “joke”.
“When you were in this (Opposition) side, you made strong statements. Now, on the other side, you are soft-pedalling. Pakistan is interfering in our internal matters, issuing statements. And our foreign office is pleading before them not to make such statements, as if with folded hands.”
The suggestion found echo in other Opposition parties, as the BJD, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, YSR Congress and the CPI(M) came down heavily on the government.
“Are you capable of engaging the Kashmiri youth,” asked BJD’s deputy leader Tathagata Satpathy. “How many education loans, how many micro industries have come to Kashmir? You deal with them with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, but couldn’t give 5,000 jobs.”
The member from the BJD, which is an arch rival of the Congress in Odisha, also took digs at the BJP over its slogan of Congress-mukt Bharat. “In democracy, it can’t be mukt of anybody,” Satpathy quipped.
Trinamool’s Kalyan Banerjee said the Centre must extend help. “High-sounding speech of ministers will not solve problems,” he added.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav asked the government to be cautious of “China’s plans to control Kashmir”.
CPI(M) leader Md. Selim maintained that “use of brutal force can fulfil political agenda but not national interest.”
The PDP’s Muzaffar Beg spoke on how the Congress had betrayed the Kashmiris and said, “We went with the BJP because it was voted as a winner by Indians.”
On his part, Scindia slammed the BJP’s ruling alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party in Kashmir as a “marriage of convenience”. The state government was suffering from an “identity crisis”, he alleged.
In response, Minister of state for foreign affairs MJ Akbar went down the road of history to recall how Pakistan had resorted to violence on the Kashmir issue right after Independence.
Describing Kashmir as “not a battle of geography, but ideology” for Pakistan, he defended Modi saying, “PM ka imaan, zabaan, yakeen saaf hai. We will take up the issue of Pakistan observing Black Day after Wani was killed.”
Akbar, like fellow BJP leader Anurag Thakur, appealed to the Opposition to be united “at least on the issue of Kashmir”.
Thakur sounded a word of caution to the Opposition. “Pakistan has lit the fire in Kashmir. But Soniaji (Gandhi), we have to see that no one starts supplying fuel from the country,” he said, amid the backing of BJP allies like the Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and the PDP on the issue. “The government is ready to work but it is responsibility for all political parties to help to create atmosphere.”