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Rahul Enlists Surgical Strike Hero Lt Gen DS Hooda After Pulwama

With Surgical Strike hero Lt Gen DS Hooda by his side, Rahul Gandhi is set to put PM Modi on backfoot on security

Updated
Elections
3 min read
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The Congress has appointed Lt Gen (Retd) DS Hooda as head of the party’s task force on national security. The party made this announcement after Lt Gen Hooda met Congress President Rahul Gandhi at his 12, Tughlak Road residence in Delhi on Thursday, 21 February.

Lt Gen Hooda oversaw India’s surgical strikes of September 2016, as the head of the India Army’s Northern Command. Despite playing a critical role in the strikes, Lt Gen Hooda had consistently been against politicising and hyping them up. And this put his stand at variance with the position of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, which was seen as taking mileage out of the surgical strikes.

The Congress’ move is of immense political significance. Here are four reasons why.

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1. Put Modi Govt On The Back Foot On Pulwama Attack

Lt Gen Hooda’s appointment as the head of the Congress’ security task force comes on a day that the party took the gloves off against the Narendra Modi government about the Pulwama attack of 14 February.

So far, the party had remained silent on the attacks, instead choosing to project a sense of bipartisan unity on the issue of terrorism. However, recent statements by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah using the terror attack to target the Congress, gave the Opposition party the chance to criticise the government.

The Congress held a press conference accusing the government of ignoring intelligence inputs that could have supposedly helped prevent the attack.

In particular, the Congress gunned for National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

With Lt Gen Hooda on its side, the Congress would now be able to attack the government in a far more informed and pointed manner. Attacking the government on national security often gets perceived as an attack on the army. But that won’t be the case when an officer like Lt Gen Hooda criticises the government.

Attack Modi’s Kashmir Policy

Lt Gen Hooda was the head of the Army’s Northern Command not just during the surgical strikes but also during the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and its immediate aftermath. He saw how the Valley plunged into a violent cycle of protests, firing by security forces, civilian deaths and fresh protests.

It is believed that Lt Gen Hooda wasn’t always on the same page as the government as far as their handling of Kashmir was concerned.

Though he never publicly criticised the government, he always spoke out against what he called “short term thinking” on Kashmir.

Lt Gen Hooda would know better than most others where the government’s policy went wrong, what were the reasons behind the rise in terror incidents in the Valley as well as in the massive increase in the number of local youths joining the ranks of the militants.

Take Wind Out Of Surgical Strikes As An Election Issue

Roping in the officer who oversaw the 2016 surgical strikes, is an important coup for the Congress party. It sends the signal that Lt Gen Hooda has more faith in the Congress than the BJP on national security, despite working closely with the latter as head of the northern command.

The Congress has also made it difficult for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to gain mileage out of the surgical strikes.

While there might be differing opinions on whether the political leadership represented by PM Modi can be given credit for the surgical strikes, no one will be able to deny credit to Lt Gen Hooda or any other army personnel who had a role in the attack.

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Rahul Gandhi As A Man With A Plan On National Security

As the head of the Congress’ task force on national security, Lt Gen Hooda is supposed to consult other experts and prepare a vision paper on national security.

At a time when the public is looking towards the Modi government to take some action in response to the Pulwama attack, the Congress is trying to project that it is a party with a plan on national security through the Lt Gen Hooda-led task force.

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