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Why political discourse in poll-bound states may change after army action

The army strike across the Line of Control will do much to change the political discourse, mostly in BJP’s favour. However, it is only a unit, not a whole, and other factors will be just as important in shaping the elections.

nationpaper Updated: Sep 30, 2016 10:52 IST
Leaders of various parties attending an all-party meeting in New Delhi on September 29, 2016, following the army's surgical strikes along the LoC.
Leaders of various parties attending an all-party meeting in New Delhi on September 29, 2016, following the army's surgical strikes along the LoC.(PTI)
         

India’s surgical strikes on terror “launchpads” across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) is set to change the political discourse in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. It has given the BJP an evocative theme to rally people around — the party would hope — by subsuming local narratives around castes and communities.

What must hearten the ruling party at the Centre is how the military response to Uri terror strike will embolden its cadres and supporters. The BJP-led government was under pressure from them to take revenge, in keeping with its combative posturing during its years in the opposition.

The party used to call former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “weak” in responding to terror strikes. The then opposition leader Sushma Swaraj wanted 10 Pakistani heads in return for one slain Indian soldier. After the September 18 attack on Uri army base, which left 18 jawans dead, BJP cadres and supporters wanted the party to ‘walk the talk’.

A senior BJP functionary told HT that party chief Amit Shah’s Facebook account was flooded with abusive rants, expressing anger and resentment at the government’s failure to take revenge against Pakistan.

The director general of military operations (DGMO) did that talk on Thursday, announcing India’s strike on terror “launch pads” — erstwhile training camps in PoK — which shifted deeper into PoK but whose infrastructure was used to facilitate infiltration of terrorists across the LoC or de-facto border.

It’s no secret that LoC has not always been a ‘Lakshman rekha’ in times of a hot pursuit or raids across the border in response to provocations from the other side, but an official declaration about it addressed the growing clamour for retribution and also reinforced BJP’s image as a nationalist party with a hard line, no-nonsense approach towards Pakistan.

Read | Army says carried out ‘surgical strikes’ across LoC against terror targets

Professor Badri Narayan of Jawaharlal Nehru University is of the view that if the momentum generated by the military offensive is sustained, it will help the BJP in the assembly elections scheduled in February-March next year.

“It boosts the morale of the BJP cadre. The middle class also feels good. As it is, it looks like going in favour of the BJP but much will depend on how long the party can carry this momentum. Elections are six months away and some new issues might crop up between now and then,” he says.

Besides, factors such as caste, religion and people’s aspiration play their own roles. There are agitations by Marathas in Maharashtra and Patidars in Gujarat. Mobilisation of Dalits is taking place in Gujarat and UP. “There are many factors, which can’t be overlooked. It (retribution against Pakistan) is a unit, not a whole. Its impact will also depend on how the BJP packages it with Hindutva,” says Narayan.

The BJP and its ideological patron RSS are known to have deep interest in traditions and history, especially of ancient times. There are lessons to be learnt from modern history as well. No less than Atal Bihari Vajpayee had eulogised Indira Gandhi as “Durga” for her role in bifurcating Pakistan and creating Bangladesh in 1971. But the euphoric support for her didn’t last even a couple of years as protesting people started hitting the streets for their day-to-day problems, leading to the imposition of the Emergency in 1975.

Many in the BJP had spent time in jails during the Emergency and they — unlike cadres who must be elated today — have a better perspective. That explains why the BJP national council, while adopting a statement on Uri attack at Kozhikode last Sunday, focused entirely on reaching out to the Dalits, minorities and deprives sections of the people.

For more stories on the surgical strike across LoC, click here