Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's remarks on Davinder Singh, Pulwama attack underscore Congress' flawed national security narrative
Chowdhury's remarks calling for a relook into the Pulwama incident come at a time when party strategists are seeking to re-invent Sonia Gandhi's lost aura.
The recent comments made by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on the Pulwama attack constitute yet another manifestation of the identity crisis that the Congress is presently suffering from.
Chowdhury's remarks, inadvertently or otherwise, give a handle to the Pakistani establishment to target India.
His statement can’t be dismissed as an an out-of-turn remark by a loudmouth.
The recent comments made by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, on the Pulwama terror attack constitute yet another manifestation of the identity crisis that the grand old party is presently suffering from.
In a series of tweets, Chowdhury said, "Had Davinder Singh by default been Davinder Khan (sic), the reaction of troll regiment of RSS would have been more strident and vociferous. Enemies of our country ought to be condemned irrespective of colour, creed, and religion. The chink in the armour is exposed in the Valley much to the consternation of us. We cannot afford ourselves to be penny wise and pound foolish. Now question will certainly be arisen as to who were the real culprits behind the gruesome Pulwama incident; need a fresh look on it."
Through this statement, Chowdhury has not only raised questions about the Indian establishment and security apparatus, but has also (inadvertently or otherwise) given a handle to the Pakistani establishment to target India. The Congress leader, speaking to TV news reporters, also said that it should be probed whether Singh and other security officials had a hand in the Pulwama terror attack. He also sought to give a communal spin to the whole incident.
Chowdhury seemed to have ignored the fact that the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the attack, in which a suicide bomber killed 40 CRPF personnel. Several other pieces of evidence had also pointed to Pakistan's role. Subsequently, India's political and security establishment had sent out a strong message by conducting air strikes on terror camps deep inside Pakistani territory.
Chowdhury’s statement can’t be dismissed as an an out-of-turn remark by a loudmouth. The fact that he first tweeted the statement and then reiterated his stand while speaking to reporters indicates that the party's leadership did not ask him to tone his remarks down or issue a clarification. In fact, Congress spokesperson and working committee member Randeep Singh Surjewala questioned in a press conference whether Singh was a lone ranger or whether he was acting at the behest of "master conspirators."
As it happens, Surjewala had raised similar questions even in the immediate aftermath of the attack. At the time, he had said, "Questions must be asked as to who provided the kilograms of RDX and MI4 Carbines and rocket launchers to the so-called home grown terrorists."
Both Chowdhury and Surjewala enjoy the confidence of party bosses Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, as is evident from the positions they hold.
Chowdhury's remarks calling for a relook into the Pulwama incident come at a time when party strategists are seeking to re-invent Sonia Gandhi's lost aura, and to re-establish the Congress' position at the forefront of the Opposition ranks. They also highlight the current state of affairs in the leadership structure of the party.
It is important to note that Singh was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police, which is effectively under the command of the Centre. His arrest has certainly raised questioned about moles who may be working in tandem with the enemies of the nation. However, the fact that he was caught speaks about the counter-measures taken by security agencies. One should wait to see how the investigation in the case progresses.
The problem for the Congress is two-fold. Firstly, the narrative and the known facts about the Pulwama attack are well-settled. The recent statements by the Congress only expose its position on national security issues.
Secondly and more importantly, the controversy has punctured the Congress' unsuccessful bid to reposition itself as a party that is taking a strident position against the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Population Register and National Register of Citizens. Till now, West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee has been at the forefront of the political opposition to the three moves.
On Monday, a meet chaired by Sonia Gandhi to oppose the CAA, NPR and NRC turned out to be a flop show, as seven key Opposition parties remained absent. Leaving aside the Congress, the other parties that were present at the meet have a combined strength of just 22 MPs in the Lok Sabha.
The Congress' failure to convince several Opposition parties may be due to the fact that in 2003, Manmohan Singh, as Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, had asked the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government to amend the Citizenship Act to facilitate citizenship to persecuted religious minorities in Bangladesh. The provision of an NPR to be updated every year was also started by the Congress in 2011. There are many UPA-era press releases and statements by the then home minister P Chidambaram on the merits of the NPR.
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