NEW DELHI :
On a day when tensions between India and Pakistan escalated, more than 20 opposition parties led by the Congress on Wednesday slammed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for “politicizing the sacrifices" made by the Indian Armed Forces and demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately convene an all-party meeting to discuss the security situation.
The demand surfaced in a meeting to discuss the security situation, following the Pulwama terror attacks earlier this month. It marked the first time the opposition parties held a joint meeting and criticized the ruling party over its handling of the security situation.
A strongly worded joint statement issued by the opposition parties highlighted two key criticisms: the BJP for “blatantly politicizing" the situation and Modi for failing to convene an all-party meet over the issue.
“The meeting of 21 parties expressed their deep anguish over the blatant politicization of the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces by leaders of the ruling party," said the joint statement released after the meeting.
“National security must transcend narrow political considerations. The leaders observed that the Prime Minister has, regrettably, not convened an all-party meeting as per the established practice in our democracy," it added.
To be sure, the Union government has held two all- party meetings in the last fortnight. While the first one was called after the Pulwama attack on 16 February by home minister Rajnath Singh, another was called by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday after the air strikes by Indian Air Force (IAF) against terror launch pads in Pakistan.
“The opposition parties should understand that this is not the time to play politics for electoral benefits. The timing of the meeting and criticism of the government is only for political gains," a senior BJP leader said requesting anonymity while responding to the joint statement.
The criticism by the opposition parties at this juncture is significant as internal security and terrorism become key political issues ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. According to a senior Election Commission (EC) official, the poll watchdog is keeping a close watch on the security situation.
In its meeting on Wednesday, opposition parties condemned “Pakistani misadventure" and praised the actions of the security forces, particularly the Indian Air Force. “The meeting paid homage to our martyrs and expressed solidarity with our Armed Forces in crushing the menace of terrorism," said a joint statement after the meeting.
The meeting was earlier scheduled to discuss the common minimum programme (CMP) of opposition parties but its agenda was later changed to discuss the prevailing security situation. In view of the security situation, the Congress has also postponed its working committee meeting which was scheduled to take place in Gujarat on Thursday.
The meeting was attended by top leaders of the Congress party, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, party president Rahul Gandhi, former party president Sonia Gandhi and leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad.
It was also attended by all the key opposition party chiefs, including Sharad Pawar of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Sitaram Yechury of Communist Party of India (Marxist), Upendra Kushwaha of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), and Jitan Ram Manji of Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular).