The opposition parties on Monday mounted an attack on the Narendra Modi government, questioning the credibility of its claims that hundreds of terrorists were killed in the Indian Air Force bombing of a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp. The Prime Minister’s chances of reaping electoral dividends from the daring attack now depend on how the narrative will build up in the coming days.
Though the opposition’s attack was deflected by a spirited defence by Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa who reiterated that the Indian Air Force fighter jets had indeed pounded the terror camps, conflicting claims by different BJP leaders once again put the government in a precarious situation.
The Prime Minister’s image as a strong and decisive leader had received a boost after the IAF bombings and safe return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan’s custody. Modi has been a fierce critic of UPA’s security policy during his term as the chief minister of Gujarat.
After the opposition’s attacks, the onus will be on the government to furnish credible proof to back its claims. Now the party leadership will have to work harder to hard-sell the image of a powerful government capable of defending the country.
The suicide car bomb attack at Pulwama last month came at a time when the BJP was looking for a narrative that could help the party to project Prime Minister Modi’s muscular leadership to woo voters.
Though the election year budget presented by interim finance minister Piyush Goyal may have helped the ruling party to win back its core constituency of middle class voters, an outright victory in the elections remained a doubtful proposition after the electoral reverses in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
As a popular leader who can connect with the masses, Modi may still have several aces up his sleeves. But if the government is unable to back the claims made earlier, it could become more difficult for him to dictate the electoral agenda and secure a repeat victory for his party.