Patriot Games: How the Congress lost the plot on India's security, and lost the election too

Sushant Sareen
Sushant SareenMay 30, 2019 | 16:37

Patriot Games: How the Congress lost the plot on India's security, and lost the election too

The last thing Pakistan wanted was Narendra Modi back as India's PM. They'd have preferred the Congress which is seen as soft on them. But how did Indira Gandhi's party reach such a state?

In 1980, the thumping victory of Indira Gandhi in the General Elections was viewed with great consternation — even some panic — in Pakistan.

Unlike Mrs Gandhi, who was seen as being very tough on Pakistan — after all, she had outmanoeuvred Pakistan and broken up that country less than a decade back — the Janata Party government was viewed across the border as a bunch of novices: well-meaning but also flaky on strategic and security issues, and therefore, easily manipulatable.


She broke them up: Mrs Gandhi scared and scarred the Pakistanis. (Photo: DailyO)

Mrs Gandhi’s successor, Morarji Desai, dismantled the entire R&AW network in Pakistan and instructed the external intelligence agency to cease all operations because he thought intelligence operations were immoral. His foreign minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, despite being a Jan Sanghi, had Nehruvian pretensions and harboured romantic notions about Pakistan. Naturally, the Pakistanis were extremely unhappy to see the back of these gentlemen who unwittingly served Pakistan's interests beyond Pakistan's own wildest imagination.

Nearly forty years later, the re-election of Narendra Modi with a massive mandate is being viewed with trepidation in Pakistan.

Notwithstanding Imran Khan’s interview expressing the hope that Narendra Modi might be able to bite the bullet and make peace with Pakistan, the real power wielders in Pakistan harbour no such illusions.

The overwhelming desire in Pakistan was to see the Congress party lead the next government.

The reason was simple — the Congress party was seen not as the legatee of Mrs Gandhi or even Rajiv Gandhi (who was no softy when it came to Pakistan) but as an extension of what analyst Abhijit Iyer Mitra calls a “European-esque NGO with the internationally fashionable position”. The National Advisory Council-type jholawala crowd of deracinated Indians has contorted and distorted the Congress and most of its ‘secular’ allies to a point that they are no longer seen as folk who can defend this country against its enemies.


The Congress party is seen as a total softy by the Pakistanis. And its rhetoric post-Pulwama cemented the impression. (Image: PTI)

The Congress party will need to do some serious soul-searching about why the party has fared so poorly in the 2019 elections. Of course, the party could delude itself into believing that it did quite well — after all, it won some 15% more seats over its 2014 tally. It is also possible that the party brushes away criticism over its ignominious defeat by claiming ‘moral victory’ or, as another durbari recently put it, ‘winning the hearts of the people’. But doing so would only establish the fact that far from being the natural party of governance, the Congress is not even a political party anymore. Instead, it would have become an agglomeration of unelectable NGO interest groups who have simply have no comprehension of the strong nationalist impulse that is ingrained in the electorate.

The transformation of the Congress, from being the party that defined Indian nationalism and was seen as the go-to political party for protecting national interest, to being seen as what a young Congress worker has called a ‘desh-drohi’ party has been in the making for decades.


For this writer, the Congress party stopped being an option after they questioned the nuclear tests in 1998. The sort of carping sounds that came out of Congress ranks back then have only become shriller in subsequent years. From national security to defence, from terrorism to foreign policy initiatives, on virtually every single issue, the Congress position has only strengthened the perception that this is a party that has lost its nationalist moorings — it is now stacked with ‘leaders’ who feel no compunction in saying, and perhaps doing, the most bizarre and outrageous things that harm the country, damage the morale of the people and forces, sully India’s image and hurt India’s interests.

When the guru faltered: Sam Pitroda's statements on Balakot damaged the Congress party. (Photo: PTI)

What the Congress, and the disparate bunch of parties that gravitate around it, just haven’t realised is that a clever turn of the phrase, or a witty jibe, or taking pot shots at the government during times of crisis or when the nation is hurting — after Pulwama, for example — or questioning, even criticising offensive operations — the ‘Surgical Strikes’ is another example — doesn’t give them any advantage. If anything, it riles the people, infuriates them and turns them away from these congenital critics. The jibes might enthuse stand-up comics or YouTube stars — but it doesn’t the masses.

The Congress’ motormouths have caused irretrievable damage to the nationalist credentials of the party.

When a Mani Shankar Aiyar and Salman Khurshid go to Pakistan and seek Pakistani help to get rid of Modi, it has disaster written all over it. When a Digvijay Singh bats for the Lashkar-e-Taiba by standing with those who call 26/11 an RSS conspiracy and the same man then becomes the closest advisor of the Congress president, it is an unmitigated disaster. When the Congress president questions the Batla House encounter and another Congress president stands with, nay defends, the tukde-tukde gang in JNU, it cements the perception of the Congress as an anti-national party and a defender of terrorists.

After the rout of the Congress in 2019, when chat rooms of separatists and terrorists go quiet and are no longer exulting over what they imagined was an election which would bring parties sympathetic to them, then it is a sign of how the negative perception of the people about the Congress and other such parties isn’t off the mark.

National security is no longer an esoteric subject. Everyday, body bags of security force personnel travel to every nook and corner of the country. Large crowds turn out to attend the funerals of martyred soldiers. Any politician with a modicum of political instinct would understand what these teeming crowds mean. But the ivory tower of the Congress failed to smell the coffee that terrorism and proxy wars, and the blood they have shed, have united the country in a way that no one could have imagined.

Because our security is no joke: Why does the Congress not seem to get that? (Photo: India Today)

And yet, when the politicians are seen as blaming the government instead of blaming the enemy, it conveys an impression that these are not people the country can trust. Instead of backing the government of the day and strengthening its hands to exact retribution from the enemy, when the Congress manifesto promises “innovative federal solutions” that “eschew muscular militarism and legalistic formulations” and goes on to promise “talks without pre-conditions” to separatists, it sends an unmistakable signal that this is a party that will be open to the balkanisation of India.

The only man in the Congress who had his finger on the nationalist impulse of the people was the Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Maybe because he has served in the army, or maybe because his ancestors have rendered great service to the country, Amarinder understood that by taking an unequivocal nationalist stand and being one with the outrage on a Pulwama and pride in a Balakot, he wasn’t toeing the BJP line, but was actually toeing the Indian line and in doing so, stealing the thunder from the BJP.

Guess who the Congress should have followed — and who it did? (Photo: India Today)

But instead of taking their cue from Capt. Amarinder Singh, the Congress party preferred the silly and obnoxious comedian, Navjot Sidhu, who seemed to be enamoured of the enemy and mocking his own Prime Minister and country. In a state like Punjab, which has been the sword-arm of India, its people not only having suffered the horrors of Partition but also having been in the vanguard of supporting the armed forces, the Amarinder line managed to withstand the TsuNaMo that swept India in 2019. Had the Congress followed the comedian Sidhu’s line, it would have suffered the same fate as it did in other northern states.

It isn’t good enough for the Congress and gang to claim that BJP’s was a campaign of fear — in fact, if ever there was a campaign of fear, it was in 1984. The 2019 campaign was one of resolve and aggression, to not succumb to the blackmail of nuclear weapons and terrorism, to hit back and to defend India and Indians, whatever it takes. This struck a chord with the people of India who look up to a decisive leader — not a namby-pamby NGO representative, mouthing inanities of how much he loves everyone.

Unless the Congress learns this lesson and does radical reform to rediscover and reclaim its nationalist moorings, the party will sink even further.

If the Communists and their offspring in the Left-Liberal mafia, who have never had any use for nationalism and who consider patriotism a four-letter word, are going to be the guiding stars of the Congress party, then 2024 is also lost.

Last updated: May 30, 2019 | 19:43
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