The Opposition parties on Wednesday chose to bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the line of fire on Pulwama terror strike amid a section wanting an all-out attack on the BJP while veteran leader Sharad Pawar cautioning against such a move.
The parties acknowledged that the BJP riding on the air strike on Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Pakistan has a "definite edge" in the upcoming Lok Sabha election and it would need to re-design its strategy to counter the saffron party's surge.
There was back and forth on including a sentence attacking the Prime Minister for not calling an all-party meeting as well as naming BJP in the joint statement of 21 Opposition parties.
The joint statement finally read, “the leaders observed that the Prime Minister has, regrettably not convened an all-party meeting as per the established practice in our democracy.”
In the Opposition meeting on Wednesday, from CPI(M) General Secretary to his arch-rival Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee argued for taking on Modi on the Pulwama attacks and his "attempts to politicise" it.
Yechury told the meeting it was BJP chief Amit Shah who first set the ball rolling for politicisation the day after Pulwama terror attack. He said Modi neither called nor attended an all-party meeting.
Sources said one of the senior Opposition told the meeting, “we cannot defeat Modi on this agenda (Pulwama). We need to set the agenda and bring back the issues of jobs and agrarian crisis.” To this, another leader is quoted by sources as saying, “they have already won. Our strategy has to change and we should raise peoples' issues.”
Banerjee was of the view that the BJP government was going ahead with the politicisation of the terror strike and air strikes, sources said. “There is no need to be defensive. We should raise questions about the Prime Minister. The BJP is making a lot of noise. We need to target them,” Banerjee was quoted as saying.
As the drafting progressed, Pawar expressed his disagreement in going all out against Modi and the government, saying they should “keep in mind the mood across the country” and there was “lot of anger” against Pakistan. “Why do you want to name the Prime Minister? How do you benefit?” Pawar is learned to have asked.
However, a section of leaders insisted for inclusion of the remark against the Prime Minister. At one point, sources said, veteran leader Sharad Yadav asked, "are you scared of Modi? I have only heard Mamata, Yechury and (BSP chief) Mayawati speaking against the Prime Minister on Pulwama."
When a suggestion came that the joint statement should note that India should not escalate the tension, Pawar again intervened to say that it was not proper to do so. “If Pakistan escalates, what can we do? Don't say that,” he said, as other leaders agreed to his point.
After discussions, sources said, the leaders also agreed to omit references to Article 35(A) and Article 370 of the Constitution as well as the attacks on Kashmiris outside Jammu and Kashmir in the statement as the subject it was dealing with was different.
When the meeting was into 75 minutes, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed that one of its pilots “is missing” after reports emerged that he was in Pakistan custody. Sooner, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's address to his nation also came and both these were discussed in the meeting.
All was not well in Opposition camp otherwise also as National Conference's Omar Abdullah chose not to attend the meeting.
"For the record it's not just unsolicited advice to the PM, I had requested the opposition to postpone the meeting in light of the developments, especially after the news of our pilot being in Pakistani custody but they felt otherwise. I chose not to attend as a result," he tweeted. He had earlier asked Modi also to suspend his political activities till the pilot is brought back.