The victory over the Pakistan 'clean chit' will go to the BJP.
After unrelenting pressure from the main opposition party, the government is highly likely to issue a fresh statement on the killing of five Indian soldiers along the Line of Control in Poonch, Jammu & Kashmir by Pakistani troops.
Antony's statement, in which he said that the Indian jawans had been killed by persons 'dressed in Pakistani uniforms', caused massive outrage because, as the BJP said, it gave the neighbouring country an easy exit route by which it could deny its role in the attack.
The BJP had moved a privilege motion against Defence Minister in Lok Sabha and has sought an apology from him “to the nation”.
“I demand the defence minister turn up in the house and apologise before the country for making such dubious statements on a grave incident like this. It can’t be coincidence that he is not present in the house right now, so I’ll ask the Prime Minister to respond to the demand,” leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said in a fiery session that was dominated by protests, disruptions and eventual adjournment.
The government move to change its official statement came after a meeting between Congress and BJP leaders, in which the BJP had told the government that the defence minister's 'diluted' statement was totally unacceptable. The government had reportedly assured BJP leaders that Antony would update Parliament after being briefed by army chief Bikram Singh.
A big question of course, is why Antony went with the now controversial statement despite being briefed by the DGMO that the attack involved Pakistan Army personnel along with 20 heavily armed terrorists. With the PMO denying what it called 'mischievous' reports that it had asked the defence minister to water down his statement, the slip up has been attributed to an 'error of judgement'. According to the Hindustan Times, a senior Congress leader had told the paper, "There is an error of judgement on the part of the government. It happens sometimes. Now we will see how it can be rectified".
Of course, the entire incident - from the Congress' initial tepid reaction to the retraction of the statement comes as a massive fillip to the BJP, who have found yet another reason to attack the crumbling UPA government. As Firstpost editor Sanjay Singh pointed out on Wednesday:
"The tag of ‘soft state’ has come back to haunt the Manmohan Singh government yet again. The killing of five Indian soldiers in an ambush by Pakistan has given the BJP a chance to re-focus the debate on Congress follies on national security issues and its ineffective response to Pakistan. This has come as welcome ammunition for the BJP which thinks that this meek response will make many look up to Modi’s strong leadership."
And with the government's about turn in the face of all that BJP pressure, it gives the opposition another vital victory point in its own battle against the Congress. One that it will undoubtedly use during future electoral campaigning for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
For now however, the more crucial thing for the Congress seems to be the smooth functioning of the parliament. With the populist Food security bill up for debate in the house, it has more to lose by letting Antony's statement stand.
Updated Date: Aug 08, 2013 08:02:00 IST