It seems that Rahul Gandhi has started to rue his 'khoon ki dalaali' jibe directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. An indicator of that is the fact that the Congress vice-president issued a clarification on the same recently. But, none of his political rivals seem to be buying it, least of all the BJP.
In fact, with his latest jibe, he has yet again painted a target on his back for the ruling party to attack. The BJP simply couldn't let go of this opportunity to pounce on the Congress party and gave a suitable twist to the situation to reap political rewards.
It was also an opportunity for the BJP to point out that the de-facto boss of the Congress was insensitive towards issues of national interest – concerning internal and external security.
BJP president Amit Shah couldn't have wished for a more opportune moment to finally express his thoughts on the surgical strikes and on two of his political rivals, Rahul and Arvind Kejriwal.
Shah had called a press conference after the conclusion of the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) meet following the strikes but later cancelled it, apparently because Modi didn't want any political statement to be made by the party over the issue.
Instead, Shah issued a simple statement complimenting the prime minister and the Indian Army. But thanks to Rahul, he now has a cover to say what he wanted as it would only appear like he was responding to a distasteful remark made by the Congress vice-president against the Indian Army and the prime minister.
"From the beginning we tried not to politicise the strikes. The government tried to keep this as far from politics as possible. In fact, it was the DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) who spoke at the press conference," Shah said.
"By saying (that Modi was) profiteering from army jawans' blood, Rahul has crossed all limits of propriety. He has insulted the jawans' of the army. By questioning the surgical strikes, the Congress party has reiterated the disappointment expressed by Pakistan...which is unfortunate," Shah added.
Shah also found it convenient to target BJP's other main political rival, Kejriwal. "All this was started by Kejriwal ji. On Thursday, #PakStandsWithKejriwal was trending (on twitter) in Pakistan, and that shows a lot. After this, there were stray comments from our other opponents. But when Congress VP Rahul Gandhiji said 'khoon ki dalaali', he crossed all limits," Shah said.
He went on to ask if Gandhi thought that the "blood of our brave soldiers is something that can be traded."
The BJP has for long been targeting Congress with the dalaali word – for the bofors, 2G, coal, Commonwealth Games scams and so on. The party again swung the dalaali word back at them, by recalling all the scams.
"We want to ask him, who was the dalaal in the Bofors scandal? Who was the dalaal in the 2G scam? I want to ask Rahul, isn't dalaali only for deals? How is it possible when it comes to the efforts of the army?" Shah said.
He also took a dig at Rahul's Kisan Yatra campaign ahead of the upcoming UP polls. "The Congress leader's understanding of farmers is limited to the potato factory."
Shah was referring to a widely circulated video clip on social media, of one of Gandhi's speeches during his poll campaign yatra, where he talked about his inability to build a potato factory for the farmers.
Ironically, though Shah kept repeating that politicising the issue was wrong, he used the occasion to assert that his party will go to the people (in the upcoming polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Punjab and elsewhere) and highlight the grit and success of the Indian Army.
It goes without saying that the inherent message behind it all was that the strikes couldn't have been possible without Modi's strong leadership. Shah said that this kind of action has happened for the first time since the country's Independence.
The day the Indian Army conducted the surgical strikes, this author had argued that it was noteworthy that India, in its almost 70 years of Independence, had for the first time entered Pakistani Occupied Kashmir (PoK) by crossing the Line of Control (LoC) to launch a surgical strike. So much so, that after the 1999 Kargil conflict, the then Indian establishment led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had claimed not crossing the LoC, given the extreme situation, as a virtue.
Consider what Gandhi had said on the surgical strikes: "Aap (Modi) kya kar rahe ho. Hamare jo jawan hain, jinhone apna khoon diya hai, Kashmir me khoon diya hai, jinhone Hindustan ke liye surgical strike kiya, aap unke khoon ke piche chupe hue ho...unki dalaali kar rahe ho. Yeh bilkul galat hai."
Rahul has clearly not learnt anything from the mistakes made by his mother, Sonia, with her "maut ke saudagar" remark in the run up to the 2007 Gujarat Assembly elections. That unsavoury comment turned the popular tide in Modi's favour.
Gandhi issued the following clarification on Twitter on Friday, which was deemed not convincing enough by Shah:
I fully support the surgical strikes and I have said so unequivocally, but I will not support using..(1/2)
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) October 7, 2016
the Indian Army in political posters and propaganda all across the country (2/2)
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) October 7, 2016
Responding to a question by the media over Gandhi's clarification, Shah posed a counter question, "I ask you, are you convinced with that clarification. The nation is not."
In the end, it was left to Congress' most articulate leader, lawyer Kapil Sibal, to do damage control and take on the BJP president on his leader's behalf.