It is a three-room house situated between a temple of the ‘Devi’ — a local deity — and agricultural fields. In the verandah of the house stands Savitri, whose husband Tilak Raj, a constable in CRPF, died in the terror attack in Pulwama on February 14. However, the house in the remote Jandro village in Kangra district, which was bustling with political leaders three months ago, is difficult to trace even though the election campaign is in full swing.
“Abhi tak toh koi aaya nahi prachaar ke liye (Till now no one has arrived for campaigning),” says Savitri (25).
With a large population in the state — especially in the Kangra and Hamirpur belt — being that of ex-servicemen and personnel currently serving in the armed forces, national security is one of BJP’s main poll pitches.
According to the Hamirpur-based Sainik Welfare Department, the state has 1,51,000 ex-servicemen, including pensioner widows and war widows.
Back in Jandro, while she appreciates the Balakot air strikes, Savitri shows displeasure towards the constant reminder of the Pulwama attack and the actions taken by the Modi government after the attack.
Savitri, now among the 946 war widows in the state, says, “Vote ke liye he toh hai ye sab halla, aur kya hai. Ye koi samadhan thodi na hai. Ye 10 log maarenge, toh wahan se wo log 10 aur maarenge (All the brouhaha right now is for votes. Propagating military actions is not a solution since both sides are capable of killing people).”
At Palampur, under the Kangra Lok Sabha seat, G L Batra, father of Kargil hero Captain Vikram Batra remembered for his “Yeh dil maange more” slogan, who had died in the 1999 Kargil War, says, “The surgical strikes and the Balakot air strikes were right steps. But, I do not appreciate the politicisation of military actions. If such things need to be spoken about then only by Army officials like the Army chief or the Defence Minister… those who are authorities on defence must speak about military actions and not politicians.”
In another Lok Sabha seat, Hamirpur, Colonel (retd) SKS Chambial says, “By all this chest thumping they (the BJP) are inciting the terrorists. Such speeches by the party can have serious repercussions for the country’s national security, but it looks like they (the BJP) are only looking at winning the elections.”
All election addresses in the state for the upcoming polls, including those by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, were weaved around the surgical strikes and the Balakot air strikes.
In the Shimla (reserved) seat, the contest is between senior Congress leader Col (retd) Dhani Ram Shandil, and the BJP candidate Suresh Kashyap, who retired from the Indian Air Force as a senior non-commissioned officer.
While Kashyap’s pitch for votes is also on the military actions taken by the BJP in the past years, Shandil says, “They (the BJP leaders) have crossed all limits. Such (military) actions are classified. The details of these actions can’t be shared with the public for electoral gain.”
However, Brigadier (retd) Khushal Thakur, a Kargil War hero from Mandi — another Lok Sabha seat in the state — says, “Since the BJP came to power in 2014, there has been a paradigm shift in how we tackle matters of national security, which is appreciable.” Brigadier Thakur has been associated with the BJP since 2014.
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