Next in BJP’s operation 2019: ‘Surgical Strike Day’
With an eye on D-day, next year’s Lok Sabha elections, the government has decided to celebrate special days as part of an attempt to showcase its victories and achievements, reinforce its nationalist credentials, and tug at the heart-strings of voters.
For starters, the government will celebrate September 28 as ‘Surgical Strike Day’, two years after troops from Indian army crossed the Line of Control that day and destroyed militant camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, according to two people familiar with the development.
On Surgical Strike Day, all ministers and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs have been “directed to go to their constituencies to organise events such as mobilising NCC cadets and honouring former and serving soldiers living or posted in the area”, said a senior government official who asked not to be named.
“This was discussed after the Cabinet meeting concluded last week and the plan was finalised,” a second person in the government said.
The government has also drawn up an elaborate plan to mark one month of the death of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as ‘Kavyanjali Diwas’ on September 16, followed by weeklong events under the aegis of ‘Ayushman Bharat Diwas’ between September 17, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday, and September 25, the birth anniversary of party ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay.
For ‘Kavyanjali Diwas, ministers and BJP MPs have been told to hold “poetry events” in their constituencies in which poems written by Vajpayee poems will be recited, the second person added.
The army’s surgical strikes in the early hours of September 29, 2016 was a response to an attack on an army base in Kashmir’s Uri on September 18 in which 19 soldiers were killed. India blames the attack on militants who crossed over from Pakistani territory.
The government’s move to celebrate ‘Surgical Strike Day’ is significant in the run up to the 2019 general elections; it has been showcasing the surgical strike as an embodiment of its resolve to do whatever it takes when it comes to national security.
In the period between September 17 and September 25 medial camps will be put up in slums and awareness campaigns will be carried out about the government’s flagship programme.
Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Rajya Sabha member and BJP’s national vice president said: “These events inspire younger generations, enlightens and educates them about the great work of our national heroes. Sardar Patel belonged to the nation. To pay homage to him by unveiling his statue is a brilliant idea. Also, what is wrong in recalling the courageous action of our soldier? If we as citizens of this country don’t do it, who will? It is unfortunate that national heroes and persons of pride are being given a petty partisan colour by the opposition.”
The round of celebrations and commemorations will conclude on October 31, Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary, which has been celebrated as ‘National Unity Day’ since 2014. To mark the day, PM Modi will unveil a 182-metre tall statue of Sardar Patel on the banks of Narmada.
Experts on security and strategic affairs say this is not surprising. “This happened in the aftermath of 1971, in the war for Bangladesh; and later in the 1999 Kargil war, although this is the first time that the public narrative about a covert military operation has been packaged in the manner by the government – and the electoral benefits that may accrue cannot be overlooked,” said C Uday Bhaskar, director, Society for Policy Studies.
He added that it is “astute politics”. “ Some of these celebrations such as recalling Atalji, reminding a younger generation about the excesses of the emergency or encouraging yoga – they will also serve to burnish the image of the BJP and the government.”