EDITORIAL | Pulwama: A similar pattern of politicisation
The aftermath of a terror attack in a democracy follows a pattern. All political parties initially express shock, anguish and anger. There are announcements of firm intent and national unity — and emphasis on how this is not the time for politics. This attempt at bipartisanship at the top does not last too long.
The second-rung leaders on the ruling side speak of how their response will be different from past “weak” regimes; their counterparts in the opposition begin blaming the government for intelligence failures and demand action. And slowly, this seeps up — before you know it, the top leaders are engaged in a slanging match.
The responses after Pulwama have followed almost the same pattern. It took only a few days for expressions of unity and how this is an issue of national interest to give way to competitive political jostling. This is not desirable and we do not endorse it — but in the Indian democratic landscape, just months before elections, it is not surprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong statements indicate that a major response is in the offing.
This could well be a leader reassuring the nation. But the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) political managers see the attack as a possible opportunity to reinforce their image of a strong party, willing to take strong action against Pakistan, and thus buttress their nationalist credentials. At a time when the political challenge has become formidable for the regime, this will help.
The opposition too can smell an opportunity. By saying they will back the government, and will have no more conversation on the issue, Congress president Rahul Gandhi sought to pre-empt the possibility of the BJP monopolising the credit for any action.
But his party’s managers believe that Pulwama has dealt a blow to the government’s claims of a track record of cracking down on terror; raised questions about the efficacy of the surgical strikes the government so hyped; and put BJP in a bind for they need to now respond but can’t allow a full-blown conflict. Pulwama is no longer just a national security or foreign policy issue. It is now a full-blown domestic political issue.