October 08, 2016

India: From cow to holy-cow govt

The Telegraph - October 8, 2016

From cow to holy-cow govt
Our Bureau

Amit Shah and Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Oct. 7: Two schools of thought are colliding in the country - one is saying the army should not be milked for political propaganda, the other is branding such a statement an insult to the valour of soldiers.

What normally should have been an open-and-shut case in a democracy has become a bitter bone of contention.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asserted that he would not support the use of the Indian Army in political posters and propaganda, undeterred by a barrage of criticism unleashed by the BJP leadership.

"I fully support the surgical strikes and I have said so unequivocally, but I will not support using the Indian Army in political posters and propaganda all across the country," Rahul tweeted in the morning.

The previous evening, he had infuriated the BJP by saying that the ruling party was hiding behind the blood of soldiers and doing " dalali" with their sacrifice.

The BJP has claimed that his comments were directed against the army though Rahul had sought more benefits for the defence forces and was criticising the Narendra Modi government for its alleged attempt to gain political mileage from the surgical strikes across the Line of Control after the Uri terrorist attack.

BJP president Amit Shah addressed a media conference today to declare that Rahul had "crossed all limits" by referring to the blood of the soldiers and the government's alleged "dalali".

"I believe that Rahul, by using these words, has insulted our valorous soldiers and the 125 crore people of our country," Shah added.

The strategy appeared to be to construe criticism of the government as an attack on the armed forces, which, unwittingly, lends credibility to Rahul's charge that the ruling establishment is using the military as a shield.

The dissipation of the thick line that separates the elected leadership and the military is by no means limited to a political party. At least one television channel has declared that the current political debate threatens to compromise national security and it would not "air any remarks that risk security for political advantage".

The Congress fielded Kapil Sibal to say how the BJP was trying to exploit the army's valour for political gains and it went on an overdrive on social media in an attempt to hammer home the "dalali" charge.

The Congress's official Twitter handle posted photographs with messages embossed on them: Dharm (religion) ki dalali, Gai (cow) ki dalali, Ganga (sacred river) ki dalali and using surgical strikes to do dalali of soldiers' valour. BJP posters were reproduced with a caption: "This is how they do dalali of soldiers' sacrifice."

At a media conference, Sibal deflected questions on the political sagacity of using the word "dalali". "What is important is the thought behind Rahul's argument. Anybody reading his full statement will understand what he wanted to say, what his thought process is. The feeling is important," Sibal said.

"Why did he say so? Because the BJP was trying to make political capital out of something where there was no politics. The BJP was snatching the credit that belonged exclusively to the soldiers. Modi was portrayed as Lord Rama slaying Ravana. It was said the 56-inch chest expanded to 100 inches."#Parrikar said the army realised its potential after he became the defence minister; there were ceremonies to felicitate him!"

Sibal added: "Terrorists are the cancer cells in the body of a patient that Pakistan is. We support the Government in killing those cancer cells. Why chest-thumping and poster- bazi? One surgical strike cannot end terrorism but the BJP started a campaign to seek votes in Uttar Pradesh in the name of surgical strike."

Reporting by Sanjay K. Jha and Radhika Ramaseshan