Congress switches poll focus to unemployment, Rafale to prevent BJP from creating patriotism hype over Balakot

When Imran Khan accused India of upsetting the peace between the two nations just to score political brownie points in an election year, the claim was both outrageous and hypocritical. But the electoral narrative post 26 February — when India targeted a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp well within Pakistani territory — has transformed nonetheless. Here is how...

Various media reports have cited poll surveys to indicate that the Indian Air Force strikes on the Balakot Jaish-e-Mohammed camp may have pushed NDA's approval ratings back on track, after the recent slump due to issues like low farm incomes, joblessness and the Rafale controversy. And so the BJP leaves no stone unturned to capitalise on the developments, sometimes even going overboard, with the leadership citing random figures of deaths when the official stand is to keep mum on the exact extent of the damage caused. The Congress, on the other hand, is finally on the path of course correction after initially repeating the same mistakes it made in the aftermath of surgical strikes in  2016: That of raising questions about how successful it was.

 Congress switches poll focus to unemployment, Rafale to prevent BJP from creating patriotism hype over Balakot

File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

After a few blundering speeches by the likes of Digvijaya Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Grand Old Party has now switched its campaign focus back to economic and social issues such as jobs on Tuesday as pollsters said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's re-election bid has been boosted by hostilities with Pakistan.

"How will the youth get jobs? How will women feel safer, and move forward? What will be done for farmers?,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said in her first speech since joining the party as a general secretary earlier this year. "These are the election issues."

In her short speech, Priyanka also warned the voters against being swayed by irrelevant issues. "Vote is a weapon, use it cautiously. Take the right decision, ask the right questions," she said as the Congress Working Committee earlier resolved to "not let Modi deflect attention of the people from the basic issues of joblessness, agrarian distress, low economic growth and poor security of women". The unstated reference was to the post Pulwama attack events.

Her brother, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, called unemployment the most important issue in the general election, which starts on 11 April. Thousands of party supporters clapped and cheered as the siblings spoke at a rally in Gandhinagar, the capital of Modi’s home state, Gujarat.

At the CWC meet, held in Modi's home state Gujarat, the party resolved to stop Modi from "cynically exploiting the issue of national security, on which we are all united, to divert attention from his colossal failures, bogus claims and persistent falsehoods."

In her speech, Sonia Gandhi accused Modi of playing the "victimhood card" saying it were the people instead who were victims of his "wrong policies". She wanted Congress to come out with a vision for the country going forward as also highlight the achievements of the UPA government. She also said the issue of corruption in the Rafale deal should be highlighted in a big way.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh talked about the agrarian crisis, hampered industrial growth and unemployment under the present regime at the Centre.

Elsewhere too, when Rahul was addressing the students at Stella Maris College in Chennai on Wednesday, his speech was decidedly rooted in the core election issues that the party seeks to use against the BJP, rather than the issues of national security. From women's security to economic offenders; from the alleged Rafale scam to the state of economy, Rahul touched upon everything on the Congress party's agenda, but he steered clear of directly questioning or criticising the post-Pulwama military action by India.

Pollsters have said Modi's ruling BJP has an early advantage after India’s armed forces clashed with those of arch-rival Pakistan last month.

Before then, the prime minister had been under pressure over unemployment and rising problems for farmers. India’s unemployment rate shot up to 7.2 percent in February, the highest since September 2016, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.

The BJP lost power in three states late last year. There have been at least five nationwide agitations in the last year, at the root of which were the demand to get reservation in government jobs.

However, the jobs numbers took a back seat after the 14 February suicide car bomb that killed 40 Indian security personnel in the disputed region of Kashmir and that was claimed by a Pakistan-based Islamist militant group. In response, India said its warplanes struck a militant camp inside Pakistan, which responded the next day with an aerial attack of its own.

Pollsters had said questioning Modi on national security rather than focusing on everyday issues could backfire on the prime minister’s opponents. BJP leaders have said the government’s economic record and the tough stance on Pakistan will help it retain power.

Updated Date: Mar 13, 2019 15:41:25 IST