BJP Politicising Pulwama Attack for Electoral Gains: Congress Ends Week-Long Silence

"It is unfortunate that our prime minister Narendra Modi has prioritised his hunger for power more than respecting the martyrdom of our soldiers,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.

New Delhi: The Congress on Thursday lashed out at the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Narendra Modi government for politicising the Pulwama attack for electoral gains.

The party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that even though most opposition parties, including the Congress, had remained silent for almost a week after the tragic attack as a mark of respect for the soldiers who had been killed, the BJP and the prime minister had spared no time to use it to get back to power in upcoming elections.

Surjewala referred to BJP president Amit Shah’s speech in Assam on February 17, where he said, “This time it’s not a Congress government that is in power. The BJP government of Narendra Modi does not do any compromise in matters of national security.”

The Congress leader said that Shah’s speech was inciting. “Congress party has supported the government and our armed forces. We want strong action against Pakistan, which sponsors terrorism in India. Congress and the whole nation is firm in its stand against terrorism. However, it is unfortunate that our prime minister Narendra Modi has prioritised his hunger for power more than respecting the martyrdom of our soldiers.”

“Modi has forgotten rajdharma”

Modiji rajdharma bhul kar kewal raj bachane ki jugat mein lage hai (Modi has forgotten the responsibility of his chair and is only trying to protect his power)”, Surjewala said. Adding that since February 14, when the Pulwama attack happened, the Congress and the entire nation has been in mourning.

He questioned the BJP’s attack on the Congress. “Has the BJP forgotten that in 1947, 1965, and 1971, the Indian army, under Congress governments, had taught Pakistan a tough lesson. The country still remembers how Indiraji (Gandhi) got Bangladesh its independence from Pakistan. The Pakistan’s lieutenant general Aamir Abdullah Khan Niyazi with his 91,000 soldiers were forced to surrender in front of our eastern commander, lieutenant general Jagjit Singh Arora. These events are inscribed in our history.”

He alleged that the government deliberately refused to declare national mourning as the prime minister wanted to politicise the “tragic terror attack” at the government’s expense. He said had the government declared a national mourning, it would have had to cancel the government events in which Modi sought publicity for his party.

Also read: Opposition Parties Stand With Centre, Forces in Aftermath of Pulwama Attack

A discovery channel shoot, chai-naasta, and a curious foreign trip

He went on to cite some instances which did not befit the prime minister.

“Modi was shooting for a film (produced by Discovery channel) till about 6.30 pm in Rampur the day the attack happened. The attack happened at 3.10 pm, the Congress gave its reaction at 5.15 pm. However, the prime minister came out of the Corbett National Park at 6.45 pm and encouraged slogans in his favour. He then went onto savour chai-naasta (tea and snacks) at a government guest house when the nation was shocked and mourning,” Surjewala said.

“When the whole country was mourning the loss of lives of our jawans in the Pulwama attack in the afternoon, PM Modi was busy shooting for a film till the evening. Is there any PM in the world like this,” he asked.

Surjewala also pulled up BJP national executive member Sakshi Maharaj for allegedly laughing, waving at the crowd in a soldier’s funeral and Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam for clicking a selfie with a soldier’s coffin.

He also alleged that the prime minister’s trip to South Korea “in this time of national crisis” is an insult to the martyrs. “The prime minister’s ‘sair-sapaata’ (sight-seeing) is highly offensive to our soldiers.”

He said Modi is the same leader who addressed a press meet in Mumbai even as the 26/11 attacks were still underway.

Will the PM take accountability?

The chief spokesperson said that Congress has always taken responsibility of such terror attacks. “We have a long history. Lal Bahadur Shastri had resigned after a train accident. If you remember, our Union home minister Shivraj Patil submitted his resignation after the 26/11 attacks.”

“But we have a government today which only wants to take political advantage from a crisis,” he said. However, he refrained from demanding anyone’s resignation.  

‘Hug diplomacy’ with Saudi Arabia?

The Congress leader also questioned the “hug diplomacy” that Modi indulged in with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

India has always respected every visitor and every dignitary. However, we are passing through challenging times post the Pulwama terror attack sponsored by Pakistan. We know that the ISI, Pakistan government and its army are all complicit in the attack. So we want to ask the PM that didn’t he know about the joint statement that Saudi and Pakistan issued only 72 hours before his (the crown prince) visit to India?”

He said, “The visiting head of the state offered offered a 20 billion dollar bounty and gift to Pakistan in shape of investment. Not only this, but he also gave a clean chit certificate on terrorism to Pakistan, also even went to the extent to become the brand ambassador for Pakistan.”

“Yet”, the Congress leader said, “the prime minister broke protocol to welcome the Saudi leader and offered his jhappiyan (bear hug).”

Also read: With Crown Prince’s Visits, Saudi Arabia’s Balancing Act in South Asia Continues

He said that the joint statement by Saudi and Pakistan stressed on the need for “avoiding politicisation of the United Nations listing regime” against India’s demand to declare the Jaish-e-Mohammad’s supremo Maulana Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.

However, Surjewala said that the Indian joint statement with Saudi “forgot to even mention Pakistan”. “Declaring a terrorist is political? Did PM Modi not have the courage to ask a friendly country that they amend their statement and ensure that they help in getting Masood Azhar declared a terrorist,” asked the Congress leader.

He added that after having declared on 18 February that there will be no talks with Pakistan now, Modi signed a joint statement with Saudi which says that they will continue dialogues with Pakistan.  

Questions for the Modi government

“The Congress party and the entire nation stand united with our armed forces and also our government in every step they take to resolve the crisis. However, if the conduct of Amit Shah and the PM and national working members of BJP is so shameful so as to dishonour the memory of our martyrs, questions are bound to be asked,” Surjewala said.  

Also read: Shiv Sena Cautions Centre Against Using Pulwama Attack for Electoral Gains

After a week-long silence, the Congress also mounted a attack on the government regarding  intelligence failures of the government.

“How did the RDX-laden vehicle come to the Srinagar-Jammu national highway? Why did the government not act despite having J&K police’s inputs indicating a possible IED-based terror attack. Why was Jaish-E-Mohammad’s video which came two days before the attack not taken seriously? Why were the CRPF jawans not airlifted  despite multiple requests? The jawans were stranded for more than a week.”

He asked whether the PM, the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and home minister Rajnath Singh would take responsibility for the attack.

“These are important questions on our national security. In the 56 months of Modi government, 488 of our soldiers have been martyred. The government has also been unsuccessful in controlling firing from across the border 5,595 times. If, as the government claimed, demonetisation curbed terrorism in the valley, why are such attacks happening,” Surjewala said.