Surgical Strikes: Congress Plans to Corner Govt over Foreign Secretary Statement to House Panel
Former home minister P Chidambaram "thanked" the Foreign Secretary for "setting the record straight".
New Delhi: The proceedings of the parliamentary panel on external affairs on Tuesday that discussed India’s surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir may remain a secret, but it’s now an open war between the Opposition and the government with the Congress expressing fear that Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar could get sacked for “speaking the truth” to the panel.
At the core of the war-of-words is Jaishankar’s reported statement to the panel on a question whether India had carried out such strikes before. “If you ask me whether there were strikes earlier across the LoC, I would say yes. But whether there were strikes across LoC which destroyed launch pads earlier I would say no,” CNN-News18 had reported the foreign secretary as saying.
Party sources told News18 that the foreign secretary’s statements would be raised by Opposition in Parliament when it convenes on November 16.
Curiously, even as Congress party seized the opportunity saying it was a vindication of the stand that India had carried out surgical strikes against Pakistan during the UPA dispensation, panel chairman and party leader Shashi Tharoor maintained silence.
Among the more vocal was former home minister P Chidambaram. “I agree with the Foreign Secretary and I thank him for setting the record straight,” he told News18.
In a series of early morning tweets, party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala sought to add fuel to the fire. “The (Narendra) Modi government's rhetoric bravado and machismo exposed by FS…Amit Shah and (Manohar) Parikkar’s lies exposed…Hope foreign secretary Jaishankar won’t get axed like Sujatha Singh for speaking the truth,” he tweeted.
2/2 Hope FS Jaishankar won't get axed like Sujatha Singh for speaking the truth qua valour of Armed Forces & exposing BJP's deception.
— Randeep S Surjewala (@rssurjewala) October 19, 2016
The Congress has been criticising the BJP and the Modi government for making the surgical strikes an election issue ahead of polls in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Congress in its defence has claimed that it too had done strikes, but as a policy preferred not to take political ownership or make it public.
Over the past few days, the BJP had come under heavy criticism as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar gave credit first to the Army, then the PM and then to the RSS for the surgical strikes.
Parrikar-'We made army realize its prowess'.
Parrikar-'RSS teaching behind Surgical strikes'.
Next-Godse was a freedom fighter?
— Randeep S Surjewala (@rssurjewala) October 18, 2016
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s “khoon ki dalaali” statement in this context had sensationalised the issue. Faced with criticism over Rahul’s comments, the Congress had seemed to be on backfoot but the party regained some of its mojo with the row over the parliamentary panel briefing.
Sources told News18 that the Congress now hopes to corner the government by confronting it on what it calls "false claims" when Parliament session begins on October 16.
Congress is already in touch with “like minded” parties such as the JD-U and the Left to issue a notice to ask government to come clean on the surgical strikes. The Opposition will demand of the government that it has to give a list of previous strikes and also why it was allowing its ministers to “politicise” the issue by giving credit to the PM and the RSS instead of the Army.
Clearly, the political strikes are not yet over.