The political debate in Jammu & Kashmir has shifted from local issues to the war on terrorism. Leading the charge, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday declared that the nation has the will and the strength to give a “mooh tod jawab (fitting reply)” to terrorists. “Our quest for peace should not be mistaken as our weakness,” she said.
At election rallies in Doda in Jammu and Uri in the Kashmir Valley, Sonia said the large turnout at the polls was a “wake up call” for terrorists, and that they “learn from the large turnout in the first three phases of polls and join the democratic process”.
Using gestures and a political instinct reminiscent of her mother-in-law, Sonia, who spoke in a mix of Hindi and Urdu in Uri, drew spontaneous and thunderous applause when she covered her head with her duppatta at the muezzin’s call for late afternoon prayers. She reiterated that the UPA government at the Centre was willing to “talk to anyone within constitutional and democratic parameters”.
Without naming Pakistan, she said India was keen on peaceful and friendly ties with its neighbours, and then raised her voice to affirm: “It doesn’t mean that we will tolerate terrorism. That is unacceptable. We will not be cowed down by terrorism. We will fight it tooth and nail.”
The gathering, comprising mostly middle-aged men and women, many of whom had seen her mother-in-law campaign in a similar style as children or teenagers, cheered lustily when she referred to the efforts of the Ghulam Nabi Azad government to build roads, bridges and schools.
Sonia also reminded people how the Azad government implemented the 25-year-old Janki Nath Wazir report on the creation of
four new districts in the state.
She again touched an emotive chord with the crowd when she alluded to the Congress’s erstwhile coalition partner, the People’s Democratic Party, without actually naming it. “You know very well what happened and how they behaved,” she said.
Congress Chief Minister Azad, whose government fell four months short of its allocated tenure when the PDP withdrew support over the Amarnath land row, belongs to this district.