It was a little amusing to find media by and large interpret Arvind Kejriwal's video message to Narendra Modi on surgical strikes as congratulatory and adulatory. In truth, a more ingeniously disguised attack on the integrity of the Indian army, the Indian Prime Minister and a more ringing endorsement of Pakistan's denial would be hard to find.
It wasn't the least bit surprising that chief minister of Delhi would tacitly raise doubts over India's stated position on an issue of national interest. He has done so before. But remarkably, a section of the Indian media — unlike their counterparts in Pakistan — bought into his coarsely sugar-coated needling that was done with all the finesse of a bull trying to find its way in a china shop.
This possibly marks a new low in Kejriwal's CV, though that cannot be said for certain since his political career is replete with instances of below-the-belt savagery on rivals. This is one politician who has single-handedly and precariously lowered the bar of political discourse with his intemperate language, guttersnipe tactics and failure to extend the very basic courtesy to his opponents.
As columnist Ajay Singh wrote recently in Firstpost on the Delhi CM, "Perhaps nobody in Indian politics has contributed to the lumpenisation of politics more than Kejriwal. He called the Prime Minister a “psychopath” and got away with it. He called Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley “corrupt” and was not held accountable for his indiscretions. He is constantly at war with institutions that come in the way of his own anarchic politics."
It is a misnomer to think that foreign policy is devoid from and stands independent of domestic pulls and pressures. As India's operation across LoC has amply proven, a state's response to external threats and its decisions on strategic interest are largely shaped by public opinion. And this works both ways.
It is arguable just how effective the retaliatory strike on terror infrastructure in PoK would be in discouraging Pakistan from continuing its asymmetric warfare against India but there is no denying that post-Uri attacks and New Delhi's response, Modi's stock has soared. Despite being two years in office, his personal approval ratings — as PEW Research found out recently — was already higher than his potential competitors. The booster shot of nationalism after the surgical strike would have made Modi almost invincible on domestic turf and the momentum may even carry BJP through in tough Assembly elections ahead.
As Yashwant Sinha, the former external affairs minister who has been a vitriolic critic of Modi in the past, wrote recently in his NDTV column: "The Prime Minister has shown the will power he possesses. Those who were trying to measure his chest must be looking for a new and much bigger tape."
Given this scenario, it is understandable that BJP's political rivals would be worried. They are aware that PM's actions have led to his party riding a crest of nationalism and they would be apprehensive of that repercussion affecting their electoral prospects in Punjab or Uttar Pradesh.
But when it comes to national crises — and killing of 19 Indian soldiers in a terrorist raid certainly counts as one — most mature political parties, even if fleetingly, rise above partisan politics to send a collective message of solidarity against forces inimical to India's interest. To Congress's credit, they initially rallied rock solid behind the Union government and our armed forces. The early statements from the party's high command were unequivocal in condemning Pakistan and it extending support for the government's actions on diplomatic, strategic and military fronts.
It cannot be that Congress was unaware of Modi's popularity curve and the political danger this poses. Yet that show of unity is a testament to decades of experience in statecraft which would have taught the Gandhis that there is a time for politics. And that time isn't now when 20 of our soldiers (including Uri and Baramulla) have been killed in two weeks by non-state actors unleashed by Pakistan.
That maturity didn't last for too long, however. In a subsequent revision of strategy, former home minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram asserted to News18 that "such cross-border preemptive actions" have been done by the UPA government post-Mumbai 26/11 attacks but the government chose not to speak about it. He tacitly raised the demand for "proof of strikes".
On Tuesday, Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam went one step ahead, openly suggesting that Army’s surgical strikes across the LoC were 'fake'. “Every Indian wants #SurgicalStrikesAgainstPak but not a fake one to extract just political benefit by #BJP,” Nirupam tweeted, according to The Financial Express report.
Congress's sudden change in tack and an open challenge to the Army's credibility seems to be a reactionary move in response to the gauntlet thrown by Kejriwal. As always, the AAP chief became the first politician to lower the discourse and pave the way for a free fall. The Delhi CM adorns a Constitutional post and enjoys a position of power, yet owes no responsibility for his actions. This could have been a worrisome enough trait in an MP or an MLA but a staggering callousness for a chief minister.
It cannot be that Kejriwal was unaware of the repercussions of his video message where he, in the guise of condemning Pakistan, seemed to be doubting the DGMO's statement on surgical strikes and in the guise of "saluting Modi", appeared to be raising question marks on the Prime Minister and army's credibility. Though equally incredibly, Indian media failed to crack the limp satire in his speech, Pakistan media made no such mistakes. It won't be an exaggeration to say that the Delhi CM was the toast of entire Pakistan with its mainstream and social media anointing him a "hero" for questioning his own Prime Minister.
New Delhi CM questions authenticity of India’s ‘surgical strikes’ in Pakistan, screamed The Express Tribune.
New Delhi CM questions authenticity of India’s ‘surgical strikes’ in Pakistan: Arvind Kejri... https://t.co/u6civ73Hof - Express Tribune
— Pakistan News (@Pakistannews) October 3, 2016
ABPLive reported on Kejriwal's tall stature in Pakistan, and how its publications and news channels were flooded with Kejriwal’s praises and were quoting his theory of no surgical strike in PoK.
Geo News lauded Kejriwal for urging "Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prove that surgical strikes took place across the Line of Control". And in barely disguised glee, wrote: "Kejriwal gave Pakistan’s example saying that the Pakistani Army took foreign media to the Line of Control to show that such strikes did not take place… He demanded that Modi government should also take foreign media to the LoC."
In his satirical praise of Modi and Indian army, Kejriwal seemed to have changed tack after getting his fingers badly burnt last week when he shared on Twitter an article that claimed that India, not Pakistan, was getting isolated globally in the wake of Uri.
Excellent article. On Uri, rather than Pak, India seems to be getting isolated internationally
After watching his tweet kick up a furore, this time, he resorted to satire. But the shallowness of his spoof accurately reflects the contempt he reserves towards the intellect of his followers. Going by the way Congress has reacted to the mud-slinging, a new shameful chapter in Indian politics has begun. And by dragging the Army into the controversy, the only venerable institution left in India has now been sullied.
Thank you, Mr Kejriwal.