J&K quagmire: Ghulam Nabi Azad, Saifuddin Soz run amok with statements on conflict, BJP gains on nationalism front

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has not only managed to dent his own image by taking an anti-security forces stand in relation to the continuing operations in the Valley, but also made his party cede the nationalist plank, whatever little of it was left in its kitty, to the BJP.

On Thursday, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha told CNN-News18: "They take action against four terrorists and also kill 20 civilians. Their action is more against civilians than terrorists. For instance, they killed 13 civilians in Pulwama and just one terrorist. They aim more at civilians than terrorists."

 J&K quagmire: Ghulam Nabi Azad, Saifuddin Soz run amok with statements on conflict, BJP gains on nationalism front

File image of former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam Nabi Azad. PTI

The senior Congress leader even went on to accuse the Centre of a massacre.

"Saying that it will be an all-out operation, clearly shows that they plan to do a massacre. They did not say that they want to resolve the issue through talks. Even America and North Korea solved their differences through dialogue," Azad had said.

Emboldened by the Congress leader's words, Pakistan-based terror outfit Lakshkar-e-Taiba spokesperson Abdullah Ghaznavi, quoting his organisation's chief Mahmood Shah, said in an email statement:  "We have been of the same opinion as of the expressions of Ghulam Nabi Azad and others from the beginning. India is... bringing back the era of Jagmohan by imposing the Governor law (sic) so as to sabotage the infrastructure and commit a massacre of innocents. It is a move to further intensify mass killings."

It is obvious that the Pakistani media would feast upon such a statement. Soon after the surgical strikes in September 2016, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had questioned them and sought proof from the Narendra Modi government, generating more headlines in Pakistan than in India.

What is intriguing is that Congress is yet to come out with a contrarian position to Azad’s statement while the LeT promptly used it to hype the anti-India rhetoric and to further motivate its recruits to target India.

Another self-goal for the Congress came from Saifuddin Soz, a senior party leader from Kashmir, who backed former Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf's position on the region. Soz found merit in Musharraf’s decade-old claim that Kashmiris will "prefer to be independent if they were given a chance to exercise their free will". The former Union minister said that position would be "correct even today". He shared similar views in his upcoming book Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle as some excerpts shared with The Indian Express reveal. The BJP was quick to field law and justice minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to counter the Congress.

It won't be easy to rebut Azad's statement outright for the Congress. Azad is Congress’ foremost Muslim face and is constantly seen assisting Rahul Gandhi on all important issues. In one state election after another, from Gujarat to Karnataka, Azad was seen both as a strategist and a troubleshooter. He was the one who was dispatched by Sonia Gandhi to Bengaluru even as Assembly election results were being counted to seal the post-election deal with HD Deve Gowda.

When it comes to the nationalism plank, even Congress president Rahul Gandhi is guilty of handing over the advantage to the BJP. His eagerness to rush to the Jawaharlal Nehru University when "pro-azadi" slogans were raging on in the campus proved to be detrimental both for him and his party. Rahul was perceived to be siding with the "pro-azadi" groups. His khoon ki dalali (broker of blood) remark aimed at Prime Minister Modi at a public rally (on the conclusion of the Kisan Yatra in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls) in the immediate aftermath of the surgical strikes had severely hit Congress’ position on the nationalism plank.

Anything related to the Indian Army becomes an emotive issue for the people at large, particularly if it is seen as a comment or action against the soldiers.

Both Azad and Soz walked into a similar minefield that will not only harm the Congress but the national cause as well.

Updated Date: Jun 23, 2018 09:48:45 IST