For all the applause she might have drawn from acolytes, Nirmala Sitharaman overreached herself when demanding the Congress president apologise for a disparaging comment about the Army Chief made by an ex-MP of Sonia Gandhi’s party.
As a matter of principle all political leaders must “mind their language”, but Sitharaman must ask herself if she can claim the right to point fingers when she did not utter a word about the Father of the Nation being dubbed a “chatur baniya” by the BJP president, and also maintained a silence when a ministerial colleague spoke of “ramzadas and haramzadas” and another asserted that “if they want to eat beef let them go to Pakistan”.
Wearing her former hat as party spokesperson appears more “fashionable” to the more sedate posture she must adopt as a responsible minister.
For this happened to be one of those very uncommon moments when a party leader, in this case Sandeep Dikshit “speaking” for the Congress party, was reprimanded by the party vicepresident for loose-talk. If only similar correctives were issued to BJP loudmouths, the present chief minister of UP among them. In a rare display of political decency, Rahul Gandhi went beyond the inappropriate words from Dikshit and asserted, “A leader of the Congress has made a statement regarding the Army Chief. It is wrong.
The Army should never be politicised. Political leaders should not make statements about the Army Chief.” Mr Gandhi added: “I want to make it clear that the Indian Army defends the country... and so no statements should be made against the Army.”
Rahul was, perhaps, also seeking to atone for another ex-MP who had expressed doubts about last year’s surgical strikes. Apologies do not always serve as “compensation”, but in declining to issue a conditional or qualified apology, Rahul did salvage a little “reputation”.
It, however, does take two hands to clap, and the BJP leadership cannot escape criticism for the shameless manner in which they latched on to the former DGMO’s words “surgical strike” to create an impression that the Indian Army had avenged all the atrocities and transgressions committed by Pakistan during the UPA regime.
It had been a shameful ploy to whip up passions, project a super-hero image of M/s Narendra Modi & Co ~ though on the ground the situation has hardly changed. Surgical strikes have merely given way to “retributive fire-assaults across the LOC”.
There is also a “third hand” in the equation. General Bipin Rawat would not have found himself so openly muck-raked had he restrained himself from intemperate remarks with distinct political under-pinning.
No other Army Chief has been so openly criticised ~ not even the ones who presided over the debacle of 1962, the still-controversial Operation Bluestar, and the disaster that was sending the IPKF to Sri Lanka.