By Sushil Kutty
Going into general elections 2019, the Modi Government has been given, albeit late in the day, an opportunity to sway voters. The withdrawal of the Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan sets the momentum. A long-standing demand from nationalists, this will go down well with the BJP base as also those on the fence.
The promise to “teach Pakistan a lesson” and “defence forces have been given a free hand to retaliate as they see fit” have set the stage to initiate further action which will leave an impression on voters. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken, and that from a very public platform – literally, a railway platform!
The statement is one of intent which cannot be ignored. Pakistan has literally been given notice and it will scramble its military and other resources, including terror cells. China will take note. The international community has rallied behind India. Pakistan stands seemingly isolated but changing equations in Afghanistan vis a vis United States and the Taliban besides China’s role in Pakistan will cast a shadow.
But there have been voices, from immediately after the Pulwama attack, asking political parties to – at this time of national grief and outrage – to steer clear of making “things military” part of the election rhetoric/campaign; i.e., please do not go on railing against the Rafale fighter-jet deal and the ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ harangue; it’s a national emergency, and let’s show a united front to the enemy without.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not say that NSA Ajit Doval has been a complete failure despite all the build-up he got as the ultimate Pakistan-expert India has. Doval has been out-smarted and out-manouvered by the ISI. There are also other so-called “Kashmir experts”, people like Ram Madhav, who are utter failures and ought to be in the dock. The Pulwama attack lays bare the Kashmir and Pakistan policies of the Modi government. In one word, both are “failures”. There is no escaping from that conclusion.
On hindsight, from Uri to Pulwama, the narrative has not changed one bit. The biggest mistake the so-called “Hindu nationalist BJP” took was to tie-up with the PDP and form government in Jammu & Kashmir. The lust to be in power made the Modi government effete and more often than not its response to cross-border terrorism was lukewarm. All the tough talk of “we will get POK” and “fly the tricolor in Muzzafarabad” was bombast and nothing else.
It kept the narrative flowing. Now at the fag-end of his tenure, Modi has been handed a chance to walk the talk and depending upon what he does, how dramatic and explosive the Indian response will be, the ensuing general elections will be affected. Willy-nilly, all other issues have faded to the background, at least for the time being. The Congress has announced it stands united behind the government and the armed forces. Other political parties have followed suit. Politicizing Pulwama will be committing hara-kiri for any political party.
People want retribution and the ball is in the Modi government’s court and it is opportunity. Having said that, Pulwama will be campaign material in the elections. It will be in the back of the minds of the voters when they set out to vote on Election Day and it will leave its impressions on EVMs countrywide. Politicians of any hue will not hold themselves back when it comes to winning elections. The heart-wrenching visuals of the families of the martyrs mourning their gruesome deaths will be played out again and again and in time forgotten.
Notwithstanding all these, the Modi government, and by extension BJP and NDA, has received its single-biggest jolt since coming to power May 2014. Compiling a dossier and handing it to the United Nations and Pakistan will not do. Neither will invisible surgical strikes. The father of Ratan Thakur, who was one of the 42 CRPF killed, says, “I will send another son to the CRPF but when will the government act against Pakistan, will my son’s martyrdom be avenged?”
The Modi government has a lot to answer. (IPA Service)