Congress, BJP begin war of words on Pulwama terror attack
A week after a suicide car bomber killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force troopers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, the opposition Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shook off their self-imposed restraint on Thursday and flung themselves into a political slugfest over the deadliest terror attack in three decades of insurgency in the state.
The Congress alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had continued to shoot for a documentary in Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand for his “propaganda and publicity” the same evening after the attack had taken place on the Jammu-Srinagar highway in the afternoon of February 14. It also wondered whether an intelligence failure was responsible for the attack.
The BJP hit back, with Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and party president Amit Shah rising to the defence of the party and the Prime Minister. The Opposition party has shown its “true colours” after maintaining a “facade” of standing alongside the government following the terror strike, Prasad said.
He accused the Congress of trying to weaken the morale of the armed forces at a time when the whole world is behind India. Prasad said Modi was in Uttarakhand on the day of the attack in connection with a tiger conservation programme, saying the Congress’s attack on Modi was “shameful”.
The Congress attack on the Modi government would have pleased Pakistan, he alleged, adding that what Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and the opposition party had said may have been different in style but their content bore a striking resemblance.
The slanging match is perhaps an indication that after exercising restraint in the immediate aftermath of the attack in Pulwama’s Awantipora, which has been claimed by Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), both parties are going back to campaign mode ahead of the upcoming general election.
A joint statement issued after Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to New Delhi also gave occasion to the Congress to take a swipe at the government on the grounds that it did not mention Pakistan’s role in the Pulwama attack and come just days after the prince’s visit to Pakistan.
“The brave are martyred. Their families struggle.40 Jawans give their lives but are denied the status of “Shaheed”. While this man has never given & only taken. He’s gifted 30,000Cr of their money & will live happily ever after. Welcome to Modi’s NEW INDIA,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
Citing reports in some Hindi newspapers to back the allegation he levelled over the Saudi Prince’s visit, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “In his hunger for power, the Prime Minister has forgotten raj dharma [duty of governance].”
Surjewala said the suicide bomber had rammed the bus carrying CRPF troopers, one in a 78-vehicle convoy, at 3:10 pm and Congress reacted to it at 5:15 pm. “What is unpardonable is that as the entire nation was stunned by the Pulwama terror attack on Thursday, February 14, 2019, at 3.10 pm, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was busy picnicking in Corbett National Park, Ramnagar, Naitnital, and was participating in a photo shoot of Discovery Channel and staring at crocodiles till 6:30 pm, and had tea and snacks in the Circuit House till 6.45 pm. Not only this, PM Modi was enjoying a boat ride from Kalagarh dam to Dhikala along with the Discovery Channel head and the camera crew who were filming Shri Narendra Modi. It’s horrific that as our jawans were getting martyred in Pulwama, the Prime Minister was busy doing self-promotional photo shoots.
“What is even more painful is that despite the horrific Pulwama terror attack, PM Modi didn’t announce national mourning so that political rallies and inauguration sprees at the expense of public exchequer would not be cancelled. Not only this, PM Modi came an hour late at Delhi airport, on February 16, 2019, to offer homage to Pulwama martyrs as he was busy politicking in Jhansi.” the Congress spokesperson said.
Surjewala said the Congress had exercised restraint on the directive of party president Rahul Gandhi, but it was important to raise such issues.
“The Congress party and the entire nation stands united with our armed forces as also our government in every step that they take in tackling Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. We are determined in that resolve even today,” he said.
The Congress also attacked the government and national security adviser Ajit Doval over the suicide bombing in Kashmir and questioned whether an intelligence breach had led to the attack.
“Is our Intelligence so weak under Ajit Doval that terrorists were able to carry 350kg of explosives through the most protected highway in the country?” Surjewala said. “How did the terrorists know the exact route of the CRPF jawans? Was there an intelligence breach? If so, why has no action been taken against those responsible in the intelligence agencies?”
The Congress took objection to the joint Saudi-India statement not mentioning Pakistan in the context of the Pulwama attack. The statement, issued hours after Modi held talks with the Crown Prince, said the two leaders condemned the Pulwama terror attack in the strongest possible terms and called on all countries to renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy.
The Prime Minister “forgot” to write the name of “terror nourisher” Pakistan in the joint statement, Surjewala said on Twitter, also protesting against Modi breaking protocol by going to the airport to receive Salman, calling it a “glaring diplomatic failure” for which Modi must answer to the nation.
On Thursday, attending a BJP event in Andhra Pradesh’s Rajahmundry city, Shah hit back at the Congress and accused it of using the Pulwama terror attack to further its “political interests”.
“They created an issue of PM Modi’s presence in a programme on the day of the attack. But I want to tell them that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will continue to work 18 hours a day,” the BJP national president said.
The BJP chief asked the Congress not to teach patriotism to the BJP, saying the party had no moral right to question Modi or the BJP when it had raised doubts over the September 2016 surgical strikes conducted by the army on terrorist camps across the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. He said Modi had given a free hand to the armed forces to choose a time and place for avenging the attack on CRPF.