Oppn to govt: Support armed forces, but don’t politicise their sacrifice

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February 28, 2019 1:38 AM

The meeting was originally called to draw up a common minimum programme and a national pre-poll alliance, but instead the parties focused their attention on the India-Pakistan stand-off.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi reads a joint statement after the Opposition parties’ meeting, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

While reiterating their support to the armed forces in the fight against terror, 21 opposition parties said on Wednesday they were anguished over the “blatant politicisation” of the sacrifices of armed forces by the “ruling party”.

In a statement, opposition parties urged the government to take the nation into confidence on all measures to protect India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity. The statement was issued after a three-hour meeting at the Parliament Library, where leaders of the 21 parties also expressed concern over the prevailing security situation in the country.

Leaders observed that the Prime Minister has, “regrettably, not convened an-all party meeting as per the established practice in our democracy” and said in the statement: “National security must transcend narrow political consideration.”

The opposition parties also condemned the “dastardly” Pulwama terror attack by “Pakistan-sponsored” terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad on February 14, in which 40 CRPF men were killed in a suicide bombing. The leaders also paid homage to the men killed in the attack and expressed solidarity with the armed forces.

As tensions between India and Pakistan escalated on Wednesday after Pakistan claimed it carried out retaliatory strikes and announced it had, in its custody, an Air Force pilot, opposition parties appeared worried about the potential political fallout of the war hysteria being whipped up in the country a month ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

The meeting was originally called to draw up a common minimum programme and a national pre-poll alliance, but instead the parties focused their attention on the India-Pakistan stand-off.

Speaking for the first time on attempts to politicise the stand-off by the ruling BJP, some Opposition party leaders even read out statements made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah in the wake of the Indian Air Force strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on Tuesday.

A day after extending full support to the Government after the IAF operation, the Congress discussed the need to recalibrate the its campaign strategy. “The whole narrative changes. We have to plan again. We have to recalibrate everything,” a senior Congress leader told The Indian Express.
According to the joint statement, the leaders expressed concern on the emerging security situation. “Post the statement from the MEA regarding targeting of our military installations and loss of one fighter aircraft, the leaders condemned the Pakistani misadventure and expressed their deep concern for the safety of our missing pilot. Leaders urged the Government to take the nation into confidence on all measures to protect India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity,” said the joint statement.

The Samajwadi Party and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah did not attend the meeting. In a tweet later, Omar said he had “requested the opposition to postpone the meeting in light of the developments, especially after the news of our pilot being in Pakistani custody but they felt otherwise. I chose not to attend as a result.”

During the meeting, sources said, opposition leaders decided that the “attempts to politicise” the stand-off should be called out even while standing in strong solidarity with the armed forces. The joint statement had to be redrafted to factor in the suggestions of CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien.

Sources said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu and several other leaders said it is time the Opposition speak against attempts to politicise the stand-off.

Earlier, the Congress postponed a meeting of its working committee and a political rally scheduled in Ahmedabad on Thursday, which was billed as the first political rally of newly appointed AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Other Opposition leaders at the meeting were Sharad Pawar (NCP), Sharad Yadav (LJD), Tiruchi Shiva (DMK), Satish Chandra Misra (BSP), Manoj Jha (RJD), Sanjay Singh (AAP), Danish Ali (JD-S), Shibu Soren(JMM), Upendra Kushwaha (RLSP), Ashok Kumar Singh (JVM), Jitin Ram Manjhi (HAM) and Kodandaram (TJS).

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