Since the birth of Indian Republic, 16 Lok Sabha elections have been held, with the 17th election going to happen during April-May. One topic that has never been an issue in poll campaigns in the last 16 elections, is our national defence establishment, especially our forces. Leaving the guards of the country's borders to perform their duty, the ruling and opposition parties in the past used to conduct their campaigns with criticisms and counter criticisms, allegations and counter allegations all revolving round other issues and themes.
This time however, there has been change in that. It is an obvious fact that the party which trigerred debates in such a direction is of the jingoistic nationalists who become most loquacious when it comes to defence and the military. In the run-up to the polls at hand, the facts around the attack on CRPF in Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir itself leaves a lot for conjecture. The government informed the people that the Indian Air Force (IAF) operation to crush the training camps of Pak-based terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed was a huge success, and the people hailed it too.
In the circumstances where the terrorists committed to destroying the peace of India exist with the support of Pak governments, their military and organizations and continue to operate there, India, convinced that the matter could not be ended with discussions in a friendly atmosphere, took to the military course with 12 Mirage aircraft taking part in it. As such the country supported that operation, without any one questioning or criticising it. And cutting across party barriers every one complimented our jawans who returned without suffereing a single loss of life. But things changed the moment the the sangh parivar and the ruling establishment started using the military strike in support of the slogan that the nation is safe in the hands of prime minister Narendra Modi. And that compelled the Opposition parties' meet attended by 21 Opposition parties to question using the military victory for electoral gains.
Not only that, when the ruling party began using the unverfied information that 300 to 350 terrorists were killed in the Balakot air strike, that gave rise to further accusations that they were politicising the issue. It also led to Pakistan coming out before the world and arguing that no one was killed and no centre was destroyed, and the bombs weighing 1,000 kg dropped by Indian aircraft actually fell on a forest land. Neither our prime minister nor ministry of foreign affairs has been able to give an appropriate reply to this. As for the forces, the three chiefs of staff who had earlier met the press and the Air Force Chief who held a press conference yesterday made it clear beyond doubt that they were not expected to report a count of lives lost on the other side. It was when Pakistan was taking capital out of this that none short of prime minister Narendra Modi declared in public at a party programme that had there been Rafale aircraft in the fleet, the result of the IAF operation would have been differrent.
Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari points out that through his Rafale mention, the prime minister himself is questioning the efficacy of the air strike. Tejaswi Yadav, Opposition leader in Bihar and former deputy chief minister accused Modi of dragging the military into politial interests. And BSP leader Mayawati alleged that Modi is politicising the martyrdom of jawans killed in Jammu-Kashmir. Similar criticisms have come from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerji too. And the pronouncement of central minister Ahulwalia was capable of lending strength to the Opposition line. With such verbal combat going live, the latest to enter the fray was Amit Shah who, while addressing a BJP meeting, appeared with a figure of 250 terrorists killed in the Balakot operation. The Opposition is asking from where he got this figure.
In short, this controvery surrounding the military action is quite out of place and inopportune. The verbal battle solely aimed at votes, is happening when Pakistan is in the picture and on the prowl to take utmost capital out of any such controversy and media tussle. Things having come to this level, the government should at least now come out with figures that can convince the country and the world. The claims by party leaders or politicians aiming to woo the rank and file, will only be counter productive. Every one should show the wisdom and restraint not to drag the soldiers who are dutibound to protect the country's borders into unnecessary controversy.