For Pulwama Martyrs’ Sake, Congress Needs to Question Modi Govt
“As the Opposition, it’s our duty to ask critical questions on an issue such as Pulwama,” writes Pawan Khera.
Followers believe what they wish to believe about their leaders. It was widely believed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi can go wrong on anything, but he will never fail his fans on optics.
The Pulwama terror attack that killed 44 jawans, shattered this myth about the prime minister. Within hours of the attack, the Congress party pledged total support to the government in responding to the situation. Other Opposition parties also followed suit.
CM Modi’s ‘Attack’ on Manmohan Singh During 26/11
PM Narendra Modi was luckier than former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who not only had to deal with an ongoing situation in Mumbai during 26/11, but also had to face an Opposition hell-bent on using the opportunity to attack his government. Within 48 hours, PM Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat, addressed the media outside the besieged Oberoi hotel, verbally attacking Dr Singh. His party also issued full page advertisements against the Congress.
Coming back to Narendra Modi, the prime minister. The Pulwama attack took place on 14 February at 3:10 PM. The first patchy flashes hit our television screens within 5-10 minutes. That the prime minister continued with his government-funded political rallies in the days to follow, is not what has shocked many people.
The fact that Narendra Modi made the mortal remains of the slain jawans wait for an hour at the Palam airport, was also attributed to compulsions of logistics by the believers.
BJP President Amit Shah attacking the Congress party in his political rally in Assam, using the Pulwama attacks, didn’t surprise many as nothing about Shah surprises or shocks people anymore.
Even as We Mourn Our Martyrs, Modi Hugs Saudi Crown Prince
The first visible shock came when India watched her prime minister violating protocol and going to the airport to receive Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, amidst much fanfare. This too would have been forgiven, had the joint statement condemned Pakistan-sponsored terror.
The Saudi Crown Prince was being personally driven around by Pakistan PM Imran Khan only about 48 hours before Modi hugged him in Delhi. The joint statement of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia “praises Imran Khan for his efforts to have a dialogue with India” and talks about the “need for avoiding politicisation of the UN listing regime”.
Shockingly, the joint statement between India and Saudi Arabia says, “both sides agreed on the need for creation of conditions necessary for resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan”.
This being signed by the prime minister of a country mourning its martyrs. This being co-signed with the ambassador of Pakistan in the Arab world. Even in normal times, hasn’t our stated position been very clear on terror and talks?
No Heed to Intel, No Respect for the Slain
The bigger shock came when the country got to know that there were Intel inputs warning of an attack, or when we were told that the demand for airlifting of para-military forces was rejected by the Ministry of Home Affairs – a demand which would have cost the exchequer a meagre sum of five hundred thousand rupees.
The visuals of BJP leader Sakshi Maharaj grinning from atop a truck carrying the mortal remains of a jawan, or of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath guffawing sitting before a coffin box, or of a minister not having the decency to take his shoes off while paying tributes to a slain jawan, were all witnessed by a shocked country.
The demand to declare a three-day mourning period was not heeded. We are told, the country’s governance should not come to a stand still. And then we see the prime minister flying off to South Korea to receive some award.
Modi’s ‘Photo Shoot’ at Corbett
When we realise that the Prime Minister of India continued with a trip to the forests of Jim Corbett, and also did a multi-cam photo shoot at the end of the visit, and addressed a rally at Rudrapur over the telephone, attacking the Congress, as a nation we are benumbed.
When the truth of the prime minister’s schedule hits the headlines, the ace headline managers of the PMO swing into damage control mode. The first plant comes with flashes saying ‘PM upset with NSA over delay in informing him of the Pulwama attacks’. The trouble-shooters realise that the damage control was causing more damage, and the plant is withdrawn.
The next plant is worse. It blames poor network for the delay in informing the prime minister. Using the same network, Narendra Modi attempted a speech addressing a rally at 5 PM. (It was aired on DD live).
When all these plants boomeranged, another wise man called Nitin Gadkari lent his Twitter handle, informing the nation that the PM has decided to not let waters of three eastern rivers go to Pakistan.
The tweets were timed to subvert prime time debates where Sambit Patra even declared that the Indus Water Treaty had been abrogated. The channel started flashing ‘बूँद बूँद को तरसेगा पाकिस्तान’. While the truth is that the construction of a dam under the Ujh project of 2006 will start soon, and that the extra water that flows into Pakistan will be used by India. This extra water is from India’s share as per the treaty, and goes waste for want of our capacity to utilise it.
Opposition Has the Right To Question Govt
After these shocking truths emerged on the prime minister’s conduct during the last one week, we realised that those who ask not to politicise Pulwama are the ones who do not wish to face tough questions. ‘Politicisation’ has become a sweeping attack on anyone questioning the government on its failures.
If as a political party we fail to raise these pertinent questions to the government, we will have failed the country. Just as journalists cannot be accused of doing journalism on a tragedy, politicians too cannot be accused of giving political voice to people’s anguish.
Both are doing what they are meant to be doing. Both owe it to the families of the martyred jawans. Both owe it to India.
Governments should stop hiding behind this fig leaf. We are not in politics just for fighting, winning, losing elections. We are not in politics just for photo shoots and photo ops. We are not in politics to issue certificates of nationalism to fellow Indians. Yes, we are a political party. Yes, we will make such critical questions part of our politics.
(The writer is the national spokesperson of the Congress party. He tweets @Pawankhera. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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