MUMBAI: The bruising battle of words over the surgical strikes escalated further today with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar trashing claims of such operations under the UPA, provoking a counteroffensive from the Congress which accused him of "blatant politicisation" of the issue. While Congress demanded an apology, Parrikar asserted that a "major" share of credit for the army action last month goes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Speaking at two events in Mumbai, Parrikar said all the 127 crore people of India, including "doubting Thomases", and the army share and deserve credit for the operation as it was done by the armed forces and not by any political party. At the same time, he said that "major share" of credit does go to Modi and the government for decision-making and planning. He also made it clear that Congress' claims of such attacks having been carried out when the UPA was in power were wrong as those operations were undertaken by border action teams at local level "without the knowledge" of the government. "I don't mind sharing the credit, including on surgical strike, with every countryman because it is done by our armed forces and not by any political party.
So all Indians, including, those doubting Thomases, can share the credit," he said at a function in Mumbai, adding his statement will settle the nerves of many. Parrikar's remarks drew stinging criticism from the Congress, which called them "misleading" and said by rejecting the claim that such strikes had taken place in the past, the Defence Minister had "undermined" the sacrifices made by the army. "Mr Parrikar, Indian Army deserves all credit but why mislead the people and undermine army's sacrifices by denying earlier surgical strikes? "Operation Ginger in 2011 was a large-scale surgical strike.
Why is Manohar Parrikar quiet on army's valour? Is (it) not blatant politicisation?" Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked and demanded an apology from the Minister. "Converting national security into an event management exercise to polish the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is extremely unfortunate," he said. "If army deserves full credit (for the strikes), why are 'avengers of Uri' posters depicting Modiji as Lord Rama being plastered in poll-bound states?" Surjewala said. Surjewala also targeted BJP chief Amit Shah over his remarks that it was for the first time in 68 years that the Indian army had crossed the LoC to mount an assault on the enemy forces. The Congress leader said RSS and BJP chief Amit Shah have publicly stated that surgical strikes will be their key electoral strategy.
"Forked tongue, Mr Parrikar?" he said and attacked Parrikar over the alleged move to reduce disability pensions for soldiers. "The ultimate political hypocrisy; post surgical strike, Modi Sarkar cut disability pensions for 'combat injury' to half. "Is Modi Govt giving credit to Army by denying OROP, Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, by refusing to acknowledge and honor commitments? (sic)" he asked. CPI also hit out at Parrikar for his remarks, asking why the BJP was "making" it an issue of debate and "dragging" the armed forces into it.
"Why the strikes are being made an issue of debate? Indian army is of the entire country. It is not BJP's army or that of some other political party. So, why the BJP is dragging the army into the debate?" CPI national secretary D Raja asked. The Rajya Sabha member accused the BJP of "starting and continuing" the debate on the issue. The Aam Aadmi Party accused the BJP of trying to cash in on the issue ahead of Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.
"There is no better example of stooping down so low to do your politics. By issuing such statement, Parrikar is belittling the achievements of the Indian army, which has had a proud history of valour and sacrifice," AAP's Delhi unit convenor Dilip Pandey said.Parrikar, however, insisted there were no surgical strikes under the UPA dispensation. "I have been the Defence Minister for two years. From whatever I have known, there is no surgical strike from previous years. What they are quoting are actions taken by border action teams.
These are common actions across the globe and by the Indian army," he said. Explaining the concept, the Minister said such operations are carried out without official order or prior sanction of the government. "It is done without the knowledge of anyone. Report is subsequently given," he said underlining the action is taken by the local commander for settling scores. Parrikar made it clear that unlike earlier, this time it was a surgical strike because "decision was taken and conveyed" and the army did the job well. "This was an operation which clearly indicates the intent of the government and the nation," he said. Parrikar said that if the government wanted to take political mileage out of this, he would have announced it rather than the Director General of Military Operations.