At a time when the chessboard of Uttar Pradesh politics had just begun to witness moves and counter-moves in the run-up to the assembly elections, Thursday’s surgical strikes by the Indian Army on terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) has the potential of altering the political narrative somewhat, if not altogether, in the state.
And the impact of the development along the LoC can be gauged by the fact that most political parties in the state have been cautious and muted in their reaction. It is hence no wonder that while Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) chief Raj Babbar sheepishly welcomed the “action of the military” he refused to bite the bait of scribes on whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserved a pat for his “political leadership” on the issue.
A senior Congress leader confirmed to IANS that the development would “certainly change a lot of things viz-a-viz the UP assembly polls.” “This is certainly a first-of-its-kind incident in the country after the defining 1971 was that saw Pakistan split into two and in all certainty, the BJP will like to take advantage of the public sentiment on the issue,” he observed.
For the Congress, the strikes couldn’t have come at a more inappropriate time as its many ongoing yatra’s across Uttar Pradesh, which include “27 saal, UP behaal” and the “Kisan Maha Yatra” being taken out by its Vice President, Rahul Gandhi, where he was openly and rather brutally attacking Modi for his tenure so far. Soon after the Thursday development, the Gandhi scion went slow on Modi.
Strategists of almost all parties admit in private that things would alter big time for Modi baiters and fans. While the BJP-led NDA government would continue to be subject to criticism, the angle of “ridicule” would be put behind for sure, says a political analyst.
“We cannot now attack Modi in the same measure we were doing, like questioning his leadership abilities, his 56 inch ka seena (56″) chest, the sari and mango diplomacy with Pakistan and attacks on army camps in Pathankot and Uri,” averred a senior Samajwadi Party (SP) minister.
Admitting the “precarious road ahead”, the senior leader told IANS that “personal attacks on PM Modi would certainly diminish now for fear of popular backlash of people”. Referring to the barbs by his cabinet colleague Mohd Azam Khan where he personally targeted Modi, the minister said: “All this might stop for now.”
The SP chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, hours after the strikes were made official, told IANS that he was in support of Modi on this issue. He also said that this action has come as a “thos ashvasan” (solid reassurance) to the people on the misadventures of Pakistan and the Indian response.
The nervousness in the SP camp can be gauged by the fact that while the state unit released a two-line congratulatory statement to the Indian Army, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav made no statement on the issue. Close aides say while ‘bhaiyyaji’ was appreciative of the army bravehearts and “keenly followed” the developments through the day, he did not want to be sucked into the possibility of a “thumbs up for Modi”.
The SP camp is worried that its development plank could be smothered by the nationalism and development cocktail that the BJP would now tom tom. “To say that this issue would not have an impact on the state polity is living in a fool’s paradise. Let’s however see how things unfold,” a mandarin in the party told IANS.
For the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is itching to regain power in Uttar Pradesh, the development has come as expected, an insider said. The party leadership, he pointed out, was wary of the Modi government’s hawkish approach on relations with Pakistan, so much so that party chief Mayawati has been telling her followers in her public rallies to be wary of the sabre rattling.
She recently told a gathering that Modi can go to any level in his engagement with Pakistan to drum up support for the BJP in the crucial UP assembly polls.
State BJP general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak gleefully admits that the development would certainly have a bearing on the UP polls. He however clarified that for the party, the issue was a nationalistic and not a political one.
“Modi-ji is doing everything to fight corruption, poverty. The country and its people are safe. The military action is a step in this direction only, as has been the call to fight poverty unitedly, roll out the Kandhan Yojana, launch the International Yoga Day and isolate Pakistan globally,” he added.
People in the state are enthusiastic about the military strikes and say that it was a “defining period” for the country and they were proud of the action. Ask them whether it would impact the assembly polls next year and the jury seemingly is in no hurry to pronounce its judgement.