The death of Colonel Santosh Babu and two soldiers in a violent face-off with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh is a blow to the uber-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It is an embarrassment for the mailed fist, chest-thumping nationalism of the right-wing majoritarian ruling party. It is an opportunity for the opposition parties in the country to nail the major failure of the Modi government on the national security front.
It seems that the major opposition party in the country, the Congress, despite its reduced presence in the two Houses of Parliament, does not seem likely to launch a stinging attack nailing the security and intelligence lapse as China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) incursion into the sensitive area. And it looks likely that Prime Minister Modi would ride out the storm in Ladakh because of the Congress’s bid to show itself as a responsible opposition party.
The Congress’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha and senior party leader, Anand Sharma, just demanded that the government must take the nation into confidence and clarify the real situation on ground. The expectation that the Congress would grab the opportunity to corner the government on the issue was belied by Sharma’s ‘mature’ statement.
The Congress has always wanted to take the moral high ground that when it came to the issue of national security, it would not play a partisan game. It is for this reason that during the 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign, then party president Rahul Gandhi declared his support for the government on the Pulwama attack, and Prime Minister Modi ran away with the election trophy. The Modi government would ruthlessly take advantage of the political courtesy extended by the Congress.
The happening in the #Galwanvalley is a continuation of violations by China. It is time now that the country stands up to these incursions. Our soldiers are not fair game that every few days officers and men are being killed and injured defending our borders. (1/2)
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) June 16, 2020
Punjab Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Captain Amrinder Singh, who is ex-Army person, took a strong opposition without attacking the Modi government. He tweeted, “It is time now that the country stands up to these incursions. Our soldiers are not fair game that every few days officers and men are being killed and injured defending our borders.”
It can well be imagined that if the BJP had been in the opposition, it would have raised a storm in the media and the public about the unforgivable lapse on an important issue like Chinese incursions into the un-demarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The only one from the Congress, a former BJP Member of Parliament from Barmer in Rajasthan, Manvendra Singh, argued cogently in an analysis piece on a news website, The Print, that the Chinese aggression is a consequence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s assertion of reclaiming Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and the huge swathe of Aksai Chin, which Pakistan had ceded to China.
The argument, which makes much sense and the BJP is sure to counter it, needs to be turned into a political offensive by the Congress. It seems that the grand old party is in no mood to throw down the gauntlet to Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah on the key issue of national defense.
The Congress may hesitate to launch an offensive against the Modi government because Messrs Modi, Shah and other BJP leaders are sure to remind the Congress of the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s blunders on the China front.
The failure of the Congress to mount a fierce attack on Modi and Shah for the death of three Indian army personnel in eastern Ladakh will undermine the vibrant democratic practice of calling the government to account for its failure, and the BJP and its partisans would be hard put to say that the death of Indian soldiers and the Chinese intrusion was not a glaring failure.
Modi and the BJP are most likely to get away without any blushes since the Congress and the other opposition parties are unable to get their act together. But the BJP had been lucky once before as well. The intrusion of militants with the support of Pakistan army in Kargil in 1999, and which ended with the remaining militants being given a safe exit after a month of sustained conflict, did not harm BJP’s or then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s political fortunes. Modi would not be wrong if he believes that he can duck the political bouncer of the violent face-off with the Chinese.
गलवान वैली, लद्दाख से चीनी मुठभेड़ में हमारे कमांडिग ऑफ़िसर और दो सैनिकों की शहादत का समाचार मिला है. भावपूर्ण नमन.
सरकार से इन हालातों में भारत-चीन सीमा पर वास्तविक स्थिति के स्पष्टीकरण की अपेक्षा है.
— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) June 16, 2020
The only other opposition leader who spoke out on the death of the soldiers was Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, but again his was a mild and polite response. In a tweet, he paid his respects to the dead soldiers, and urged the government that it should clarify the position on the ground. That is as mild and as polite as one could be at a time when the government is needed to be flailed for its failure to save the lives of the soldiers and to defend the forward positions of the army.
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