Narendra Modi’s decision to order the Air Force to attack jihadist camps in Pakistan has had the unintended consequence of throwing our Opposition leaders into a frenzy of confusion and self-loathing. India has never before responded militarily to a jihadist attack, so initial shock and confusion can be forgiven. For this to turn into self-loathing cannot. The Prime Minister is not wrong when he says that their hatred of him is so deep that they have transferred this hatred to India and our Armed Forces as well. To prove that Modi is a liar they started singing the praises of Imran Khan in concert.
This cue was picked up by their supporters on social media and in important western newspapers. This extraordinary, unexpected praise for the Pakistani Prime Minister caused people in the Islamic Republic to announce plans to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Imran Khan was embarrassed enough for him to say modestly that he was unworthy of such an honour and that it should go to someone who could bring peace to Kashmir. This did not deter India’s opposition leaders. They continued their campaign to prove that he was a statesman and Modi a
In shrill tones, they denounced Modi and his ministers for lying about the number of dead jihadists in the Balakot camp. When I tweeted about the absurdity of Indian political leaders believing the Prime Minister of an enemy country over our own, my timeline was flooded with tweets saying that Modi had ‘lied for four years’ so nobody except a ‘bhaktan (devotee)’ like me believed him any more. And, why is it so easy to believe Imran Khan? He is the face of a military government that has lied for decades about promoting jihadist attacks on Indian soil. It has become a new strategy in an old war. Pervez Musharraf is one of my least favourite people but it pleased me to hear him say that Jaish-e-Mohammad was very much a Pakistani jihadist outfit that was created by the army but must now be stopped because it had tried to assassinate him twice.
Returning now to how our opposition leaders have behaved in a time of national crisis. I would like to state clearly that in my view, their behaviour was disgraceful. Rahul Gandhi as the man who hopes to replace Modi as prime minister later this year behaved with irresponsibility and petulance that should seriously worry the Congress party. His first response to the air strike was to applaud the bravery of the Indian Air Force. Not one word about the Prime Minister’s courage to make a decision that no prime minister has been able to make in the past 30 years despite terrible jihadist violence on Indian soil. Does the Congress president believe that the Air Force crossed into Pakistan without the Prime Minister’s permission?
Other opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee did not cover themselves with glory either. In a series of shrill, hysterical speeches she screeched about how she supported India and supported the Armed Forces but she would never support ‘Modi-babu.’ Has she not noticed that he is still India’s Prime Minister and that whatever action was taken in response to Pulwama could not have been taken without his consent?
By the end of last week our opposition leaders had done so much damage to India’s image that a Pakistani friend asked me if it was possible that the Pulwama suicide bomber had done what he did at the behest of Modi. “After all he has an election coming…won’t this really help him?” I tried to explain that in a real democracy like India it is simply not possible for a political leader to kill 40 of his own soldiers and expect this to remain a secret. But, despite my attempts to convince him otherwise, he said more than once that our own political leaders and journalists were saying that this is what happened.
The media is entitled to express different points of view. But, for senior Indian political leaders to start sowing horrible doubts about the nature of the Indian State should disqualify them from being in public life. There have been times of crisis before when Congress prime ministers have been at the helm and, if my memory serves me correctly, I cannot remember anyone questioning their character, their patriotism or their intentions. In their pathological hatred of Modi, the men and women who lead the coalition that hopes to defeat him could have harmed themselves more than they have him.
With just weeks left for the election we still do not know what the coalition of opposition parties stands for politically or economically. They have wasted so much time attacking Modi that they have come up with neither policies nor strategies that go beyond asserting that Modi has to go. And, then what?
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh