Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Ladakh on Friday took the Opposition by surprise. The Congress, which has been questioning the Centre’s handling of the standoff with China, was appreciative of the visit but said the “litmus test” for the government would be whether it can “reclaim the territory illegally occupied by the Chinese”.
The Congress’s top strategists exchanged notes as the PM visited Ladakh. The overwhelming view in the party was that it should continue to ask the government hard questions on the standoff, harping on contradictions between the PM’s statement denying intrusion and those of the Defence and External Affairs Ministries. Party leaders said the government may have managed to capture headlines “temporarily” by banning 59 Chinese-linked apps and with Modi’s visit but this would only serve the purpose for a “short term”. “The government cannot legitimise Chinese occupation… by living in denial,” a party leader said.
Officially, the Congress refrained from commenting at length about the PM’s visit. The party’s communication department head Randeep Surjewala merely asked why the Prime Minister is “mortally afraid” of taking China’s name.
“For the third time in a week, the PM did not name China as the aggressor, why? What is the purpose of talking about an unnamed ‘enemy’ to the people of India and the jawans in Ladakh? Nor has the government answered our questions on the satellite images showing Chinese troops occupying key positions in places hitherto considered as undisputed Indian territory. When Narendra Modi spoke to Mr Trump and Mr Putin, did he name China as the intruder or not? I just wonder,” former Union minister P Chidambaram said. “Ladakhis say: China took our land. PM says: Nobody took our land. Obviously, someone is lying,” tweeted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
Party leader Manish Tewari said “the fact that the Prime Minister went and addressed the soldiers and visited the injured in the hospital is something which any and every leader must do… the litmus test is whether the NDA-BJP government is able to reclaim the territory illegally occupied by the Chinese and whether status quo ante as of April 1 2020 will be restored or not”.
A non-Congress opposition leader said the China issue may come to the BJP’s advantage in the Bihar polls. “They are trying to rouse jingoism. They failed to combat Covid-19, handle migrants’ exodus and economic troubles… nationalism is a good diversion. But obviously questions remain… on the Chinese intrusion,” he said.
CPI general secretary D Raja said the PM’s visit “shows the seriousness of the situation”.
RJD leader Manoj Kumar Jha said the PM’s visit is a “significant step although a bit delayed”. “…I will only urge my Prime Minister that there is a tendency in him to fall for optical illusion. I will request him no to do that. The problem has never been with the forces at the borders. The problem is in Delhi… those who design diplomatic initiatives…,” Jha said.
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