Congress, AAP, BJP in political slugfest over surgical strikes

INDIA-PAKISTAN-KASHMIR-MILITARY-UNREST BSF soldiers walk near the Indian-Pakistan border at Rear Kakkar | AFP

The Congress on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to call the "Pakistani bluff" on the surgical strikes as the BJP asked Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal whether he trusts the Indian Army or Islamabad's propaganda.

The political slugfest involving the Congress, the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party erupted days after the army's September 28-29 surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani territory.

Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam went a step further by dubbing the army operation as "fake" and accused the BJP of making political capital out of it. The Congress distanced itself from Nirupam's remarks.

In the morning, Union Minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad set the pace by targeting Kejriwal.

"Kejriwalji has demanded that to negate the propaganda by the Pakistani media that no surgical strike took place, the government of India should give proof of it. I want to ask him whether he believes in the capabilities of the Indian Army or not," the minister said.

"If he believes in the army's capability, then how could he be affected by the false propaganda of Pakistani media and ask for proof?"

Prasad urged the AAP leader to "keep politics aside and don't do anything by which our armed forces could feel ashamed".

The minister also attacked former Home Minister and Congress leader P. Chidambaram, who on Monday said it was up to the government to give proof of the surgical strikes conducted on September 28 night in which the army destroyed seven terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

"We would like to ask Sonia Gandhiji if that is the official position of the Congress. If that is the case, then we would examine it and have some questions to ask from them," Prasad said.

"If it is not the official line, then our request to Soniaji is to rein in the leaders of her party who always want to remain in the limelight."

Prasad said that India has successfully isolated Pakistan "diplomatically, strategically and internationally".

"Today Pakistan stands completely isolated... This is a victory of our diplomacy. Lekin Kejriwalji ye sab nahi dekhte hain aur sawal uthate hain (But Kejriwal does not see all this and raises questions)."

Responding to Prasad, Kejriwal reiterated that the AAP was with the Prime Minister on the surgical strikes and wanted him to give a "befitting reply" to Islamabad's claims that no such operation took place.

"Pakistan is spreading false propaganda on surgical strikes and is telling the international media that no surgical strikes took place. The Prime Minister should give Pakistan a befitting reply," Kejriwal told reporters in Jodhpur in Rajasthan.

"We all know that surgical strikes were conducted," he added. "We will support whatever steps (PM) takes (on exposing Pakistan's propaganda)," he said.

The Congress also asked the government to rebut Pakistan's propaganda.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked the Modi government not to politicise the surgical strikes and asked it to counter the "malicious propaganda" by Pakistan denying that the surgical strikes took place.

"These (surgical strikes) should not be used by anyone for myopic political gains," Surjewala said.

He also said the Congress distanced itself from Nirupam's remark. "We have taken a serious note of the same."

Nirupam sparked a row by terming the surgical strikes as "fake".

"Every Indian wants surgical strikes against Pakistan but not a fake one to extract political benefit by the BJP," Nirupam tweeted.

The BJP's Delhi unit accused Kejriwal of acting as "Pakistan's spokesperson" and held a protest outside his official residence here to demand his resignation.

Separately, a large number of AAP activists staged a noisy demonstration near the Pakistan High Commission, after which police detained AAP leader Dilip Pandey and seven party MLAs among others.

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