Cong, BJP snipe at each other over surgical strikes’ video clips

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New Delhi, Jun 28 (PTI): The release of purported video clips of the Army’s 2016 surgical strikes created a political furore on Thursday with the Congress accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP of politicising sacrifices of soldiers to garner votes, evoking a sharp reaction from the ruling party.

The BJP said that the Congress was behaving more like a fringe player than a mainstream party by “questioning” the armed forces and such statements by it will only make terrorists happy in Pakistan.

Several TV channels yesterday showed video clips reportedly of the surgical strikes which were carried out on terror launch pads across the border in September 2016. The defence ministry or the Army has not offered any comment on the footage.

Addressing a press conference, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said while on the one hand the Modi government is seeking credit for the sacrifice and valour of the armed forces, on the other it has failed to provide a direction and vision to deal with Pakistan.

The blood and sacrifice of the country’s brave soldiers cannot be a political vote- garnering tool, he said, accusing the government of giving a “step-motherly treatment” to the armed forces by not providing them with state-of-the-art equipment and slashing their budgetary allocation.

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, fielded by the BJP to counter the opposition charge, accused the Congress of repeatedly making statements that questioned the commitment and bravery of the armed forces, and lowering their morale.

Such comments make it clear that the Congress is no longer a mainstream party but a fringe player in the national politics, he said, adding it does not look like the same party which ruled the country for over 60 years.

Terrorists and their patrons in Pakistan would be the happiest with the Congress’ stand, which has given them a “campaign handle” against India, Prasad said.

The Congress’ only aim seems to be directed at breaking the morale of the armed forces, he said and asked it to answer if it considers the video real or not and approves of the surgical strikes or not.

Prasad said that the opposition party has become so desperate with its repeated losses in elections that it has been repeatedly questioning the commitment and courage of the armed forces.

If the BJP wanted to draw political mileage, then a video purportedly showing the Army’s operation in PoK would have been released during polls in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat or Karnataka, he said.

Earlier, Surjewala said the September 2016 surgical strikes were “shamelessly politicised” by the BJP for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in March last year.

“Let the ruling dispensation remember that the blood and sacrifice of our brave soldiers cannot become a political vote-garnering tool for the Modi government and the BJP,” he told reporters.

By making public the videos of the strikes, has the government not somehow endangered lives of armed forces personnel who participated in the action as also civilians living along the Line of Control, he asked.

“The government has utterly failed to provide a direction, vision and policy for dealing with Pakistan and checkmate Pak-sponsored terrorism,”he said.

Surjewala said the “apathy” and “incapacity” of the Modi government has resulted in the sacrifice of 146 soldiers, more than 1,600 ceasefire violations by Pakistan and 79 terrorist attacks post-September 2016.

“The doublespeak of the Modi government and the BJP stands reflected in the step- motherly treatment of our armed forces, both in terms of providing for security apparatus as also in slashing the budgetary allocation.

“Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Sarath Chand was forced to publicly state that 68 per cent of all equipment is vintage,” he said.

Rebutting the charge, Prasad said the budgetary allocation for the defence sector at Rs 2.95 lakh crore this year was the highest and cited several measures, including implementation of the one rank one pension scheme, besides casualty welfare funds and the decision to set up a national war museum, to underscore the government’s commitment to the armed forces.

The Congress’ problem is that the Modi government has shut the door on taking of commission in defence deals and it cannot live without this, he claimed.

The law minister also attacked the Congress for equating Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, calling it shameful and a reflection on the opposition party’s “political decline.”

Likening a global leader like Modi to Aurangzeb is a new low, he said.

At the Congress press meert, Surjewala asked whether former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh were wrong when they used surgical strikes for strategic and security purposes without any chest-thumping.

Asked about the surfacing of the video, External Affairs MInistry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar did not give a direct reply.

“As far as the video is concerned you have to recall that on September 29, 2016 from this very place, there was a joint press briefing by MEA and MOD (Ministry of Defence). We had made our position on the surgical strikes very clear during that press conference,” he said.

On Pakistan sheltering terror groups, he said Islamabad has to take steps to control terrorism which is coming out from its territory.

“It has to rein in the terrorists who are operating freely in the country,” he said.

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