The tension at the Line of Actual Control (LOC) following army’s surgical strikes spilled over to the national capital, with the leaders of two national parties hitting out at each other for politicising the army action.
While Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of misusing the sacrifice of army men with a jibe—khoon ki dalali (trading in blood)—BJP President Amit Shah accused Gandhi of “crossing all limits” and charged the opposition party of being involved in dalali (kickbacks) from Bofors to Embraer deal.
The political slugfest intensified on Friday as BJP fielded Shah and telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who in two separate press briefings, accused Gandhi of insulting the army. Shah named the Congress vice president and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in particular for raising questions over the army action. Prasad alleged that the Congress’ irresponsible remarks were making Pakistan’s intelligence agency—the ISI—happy.
"I condemn all who tried to insult the army, martyrs and put a question mark on the army’s valour,” Shah said, adding that it was the Congress which was trying to politicise the issue and not the BJP.
“The press conference of the surgical attacks was done by an army officer and not the defence minister. Who are they trying to insult… He has crossed all limits…Who uses the word dalali in relation to army,” Shah said of Gandhi adding there was a khot (flaw) in his mool. Shah later clarified, in response to a question, that he meant mool vichar, which means thought process. Mool in Hindi could also mean DNA.
He asked the Congress vice president to stay away from serious topics and only focus on statements like aloo ki factory (potato factory), a comment made by Gandhi during a recent farmers' rally. Shah also said press coverage during the 1971 war should be checked to see how the Congress used it for gaining political mileage.
Gandhi’s phrase khoon ki dalali, was linked with Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s earlier jibes at Modi, where she had used phrases like maut ka saudagar (merchant of death) during the 2007 Gujarat elections, and zeher ki kheti (cultivating poison) during 2014 general elections. BJP chief reminded the Congress that earlier such phrases led to their party’s drubbing in elections. And now the statement would also meet the same fate for the Congress.
Shah also questioned Kejriwal’s utterances saying social media in Pakistan had taken cognizance of his comments and were trending hashtags in his favour.
Both Kejriwal and Gandhi were challenging the BJP and Modi in staking claim for the successful strike across the border.
Senior BJP leader and minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a separate press conference, targeted the Congress for trying to save the party vice president, even though he had made a mistake with his comments. Prasad played TV interviews of former army chief Bikram Singh, who supported the government and the political will in staking claim of strike and even isolating Pakistan—a marked change from the earlier policy.
Prasad also criticised Congress leader Kapil Sibal for saying the BJP created terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed by releasing Masood Azhar in 1999.
“What does the Congress mean by BJP created JeM? The kind of language used by the Congress is shameful, regrettable and full of venom. We can't expect more from Kapil Sibal…You know who will be happy with this assertion? The ISI," Prasad added.
The slanging match between the various political parties has just begun. It is likely to escalate in the coming days as the election scene heats up.