The politicians, at least a section of them are back, at doing what they are best adapted to — petty politicking even on a subject, which has broad national unanimity and support on Narendra Modi government's intent, purpose and action — surgical strike by Indian Army across the Line of Control in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir causing "significant casualties".
An all round public applause for avenging Uri without any visible cost had forced his bitter political rivals including likes of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal and Mulayam Singh Yadav praise Modi and appreciate his resolve to strike against Pakistan. It seemed that by one singular big brave and bold move Modi had unified the nation, even a bitter and acrimonious political class. It seemed like the nation was speaking in one voice, kind of a — one nation, one voice.
That obviously was a utopian situation and couldn't have lasted long, if not for any other reason than the simple fact that was all helping re-building of a cult persona around Prime Minister Narendra Modi — a strong decisive, no-nonsense leader who wouldn't spare much time in deciding to teach Pakistan in a language it understands. Whether it is about supporting Kashmiris in PoK or the Baloch or the Pashtuns and or taking a surgical military action, there was not a bit of hesitation that the PM showed and let the world know of it.
His actions would surely have been guided by the nation's strategic interest and self-respect but his political rivals who gave him genuine or back-handed compliments would have seen the political dividend that Modi had reaped. A rising assertive nationalistic mood was only helping Modi. Whatever emotions people might have at large, they mean nothing if the leader at the helm is not strong and clear headed.
Much to the dismay of Congress and the AAP, it could potentially swing the forthcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Punjab in BJP's favour.
The kind of adulation Modi was getting domestically and evoking further curiosity, possibly grudging admiration internationally could not have gone unchallenged by the rival political leaders and critics.
Interestingly, it all started on Monday when Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Congress spokesperson and former Union minister Anand Sharma and some columnists started demanding proof from Modi government about the military strike. While they were careful not to directly question PM Modi, even appreciating his political will and valour of the Indian Army but at the same time took a plea that since Pakistan was engaging in a disinformation campaign it should be incumbent on part of the government to "expose" Pakistan by giving proof.
A belated realisation seems to have dawned upon Congress after public praise of Modi by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi that crossing the LoC to strike at the Pakistani Army and terrorists was kind of a routine affair during UPA rule, just that it never had the courage to make it public. Anand Sharma claimed that this was done in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013... but "in the wisdom of the UPA, the political ownership of such actions of the army was not considered necessary." The only difference according to him was Modi government had taken the "political ownership". Former home and finance minister P Chidambaram too joined the issue. Another Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam and a known loudmouth went to the other extreme in questioning the veracity of the surgical strike. He tweeted: “Every Indian wants #SurgicalStrikesAgainstPak but not a fake one to extract just political benefit by #BJP. Politics over national interest.”
Though each of these statements and critics columns raising doubts appeared separately but coincidentally, it came after one another on the same day. Even Kanhaiya Kumar joined them in advising the government of "adverse impact on society" and potential political use of public pronouncement of surgical strike.
Under the circumstances, it would be pertinent to note what Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Ranbir Singh had said on 29 September after the CCS meet. “Based on very specific and credible information which we received yesterday that some terrorist teams had positioned itself along the line of control, the Army carried out surgical strikes last night at these launch pads. The operations were focused on ensuring that these terrorists do not succeed in endangering lives of citizens of our country. During the counter-terrorist operations, significant casualties have been caused to the terrorists and those who were trying to support them. The operations have since ceased,” he said.
It depends on individual discretion on whose words one wants to believe. India is a democratic country and dissent is the essence of democracy.
But the problem here is that Pakistan media has lapped up every word said by senior Indian leaders likes of Kejriwal and Chidambaram for its propaganda. A headline in the Karachi-based The News read "After Kejriwal, Chidambaram asks Modi to prove claims of 'surgical strike'. The Express Tribune headline said Delhi CM 'questions' authenticity of India's 'surgical strikes' in Pakistan.
The BJP leadership decided not to ignore discordant political voices by rivals for "proof" of surgical strike. It fielded Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to take on Kejriwal and Congress, more particularly Chidambaram. "I want to ask Arvind Kejriwal whether he believes in the extraordinary valour of our Army or not in conducting surgical strikes....Under the garb of seeking proof, don't belittle great leadership, courage and sacrifice of our armed forces. Why are you getting influenced by the propaganda of Pakistan?" Prasad asked.
Call it side effects of surgery, a war with Pakistan may still not be on the horizon but a political war over limited strike has already begun. At stake is the domestic political dividend.