The surgical overkill may harm BJP’s poll prospect in UP

By Soroor Ahmed,

Narendra Modi’s sudden decision to attend Ravan Dahan function in Lucknow––first time by a Prime Minister outside Delhi––to be followed by a trip to his parliamentary constituency, Varanasi, and a number of visits to Uttar Pradesh by various Union ministers, especially that of defence minister Manohar Parrikar to Agra, have inadvertently exposed the perception that the Bharatiya Janata Party was not on sure-footing in the poll-bound state till the surgical strike took place.

Support TwoCircles

Though surgical strike type operations have taken place in the past too––in 1971 the Indian army even mutilated Pakistan––yet the September 29 operation initially generated a lot of goodwill for the present government. All the political parties appreciated the army action.

But by hurriedly making a political capital out of the incident and overplaying it––especially in dealing with the Bollywood––the BJP has bared its weakness and unpreparedness in the state which is going to election three months from now.

It suggests that had the Uri terrorists’ attack––which triggered a surgical strike––not taken place the party would have struggled for any election issue. Till then the BJP was least equipped for the election. It has no agenda, no chief ministerial candidate and no slogan. This is the condition in the state where it, with its alliance partner Apna Dal, won 73 out of 80 seats in the last Lok Sabha election.

True, the prime minister while speaking in Lucknow, refrained from taking any credit for the surgical strike, and asked 125 crore Indians to be vigilant of the terrorists yet the whole exercise had specific objective.

Burning the effigies of Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif and dubbing him as Ravan is one thing, but using religious symbols in the state going to poll is something very different.

Modi started his speech with the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and warned Pakistan on this occasion. He explained as to how the world had been ignoring the threat of terrorism when India used to raise it some three decades back or so. But now the the world is recognizing this fact.

Modi could have raised all these issues in Delhi’s Ram Lila too. But why he travelled all the way to Lucknow and went to no other state capital or any other city? The answer is very much there.

In Varanasi on October 24 the prime minister apparently laid down the foundation of several schemes and addressed the people.

In Lucknow he was welcomed by his home minister, Rajnath Singh, who is also the local MP.

Though the BJP has no regional leader of the stature of Akhilesh Singh or Mayawati––even Congress has projected old hand Sheila Dikshit––political observers are attaching too much significance to the way Rajnath Singh played his role in the recent days.

Though the party is in a bind over announcing any CM candidate after bitter experiences in Delhi, where it projected Kiran Bedi, and Bihar, where it put up none, yet Rajnath may be tipped for that job if any such situation arises.

But the unusual haste in which the party tried to capitalize on the surgical strike for its own end has opened floodgates of criticism not only from all the opposition parties, but even from independent analysts, who were lauding the raid in the terror launch pads inside Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. They are of the view that by going overboard the BJP has harmed its own interest.

The posters which greeted PM in Varanasi embarrassed the party bigwigs when it was found that they did not carry the photos of Indian soldiers, but that of US troops in Iraq. How can this happen?

Not only this: the way Maharashtra chief minister brokered a ‘deal’ between film-maker Karan Johar and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief, Raj Thackeray only exposed the BJP further.

The over-use of surgical strike for political end may prove counter-productive for the party, which is trying to bounce back in UP.

But it seems the saffron party has learnt little from the Bihar and Delhi experiences. In Bihar the PM had addressed over 30 election rallies in 2015. The overplay of Jungle Raj abuse and over-criticism of the Nitish Kumar government, instead of yielding a good result, paved the way for a disastrous defeat.