India’s victory over Pakistan in the Kargil war completes 20 years today. The war and its victory was an indication of courage and bravery displayed by the Indian soldiers in which the army reclaimed Indian Territory from the clutches of Pakistan. 20 years ago, it was an occasion of great pride among the Indians, all of whom were lauding the Indian army. Amongst the celebration, there was one particular organization that was extremely sour-faced- the Congress.
The grand old party, headed by Sonia Gandhi, the oldest daughter in law of the prestigious Nehru-Gandhi family had taken it upon herself to personally see to it that the Kargil war was dismissed and deemed unworthy. Irrespective of the government, army and even Pakistan agreeing on an Indian victory, Sonia Gandhi led Congress was determined to prove otherwise.
Indian journalist Kanchan Gupta in his article for Rediff outlines Sonia Gandhi’s take on the Congress war. He writes, “In spite of its best efforts to portray India’s thumping military triumph over Pakistan and unprecedented diplomatic success over Kargil as a “defeat” and a “failure”, the Congress has so far not succeeded in convincing any self-respecting Indian newspaper to portray India as the loser and Pakistan as the winner. Coincidentally, Mian Nawaz Shariff (former Prime Minister of Pakistan) has failed to convince the Pakistani press to portray his army’s humiliating defeat and his government’s diplomatic debacle as a victory over India.”
He mentioned an incident as to how the Congress, in its efforts to purport the BJP as the midseason, had tried to claim that the “Vajpayee government had struck a deal with the Pakistan government on Kargil almost three weeks before the guns fell silent.” Hence, according to the party, “the Vajpayee government had dragged on the conflict for political gains at the cost of the lives of our soldiers.” For this, they had relied upon a report by The Guardian, which was based on “Pakistan Information Minister Mushahid Hussain’s insidious propaganda to berate the Vajpayee government.”
Thus, Kanchan Gupta revealed that how “Depending upon a foreigner to get votes is not enough for the party that aspires to rule India; it must now depend on foreign media patently hostile to India for its survival in domestic politics.”
During the war as well, the opposition was anything but supportive. The party’s head of the external affairs department, K. Natwar Singh stated, “Inko chullu bhar paani mein doob marna chahiye (They should drown themselves).” The Congress Working Committee called the BJP, “coordinationless, cohesiveless, careless caretaker government.” In various parts of the country, Youth Congress activists burnt effigies of Vajpayee and George Fernandes (the union defense minister).
Sonia Gandhi and her lot were essentially clamoring to gain political advantage from the situation. Vajpayee’s government had collapsed and fresh elections were due after the Kargil war. Sonia Gandhi was aware that a successful war had led to popularity for the Vajpayee government and hence did everything in her power to belittle the war itself.
Kanchan Gupta writes, “The fact of the matter is that the Congress president and her colleagues are a frustrated lot today — each attempt of theirs to embarrass the Vajpayee government ever since the Kargil conflict erupted has failed. Indeed, all that they have to show for their efforts is egg on their faces.”
Not only did Sonia Gandhi attempt to provoke the media, but also adopted other means to show an Indian defeat in the war. She clamored for an emergency session of the Rajya Sabha, to discuss Kargil; irrespective of the fact that she chose not to attend any of the all-party meetings called by the prime minister to discuss the Kargil conflict.
Then, she demanded an “inquiry into the government’s “failure” in Kargil. When it was pointed out that the Indian Army had won the battle for Kargil, Sonia Gandhi’s retainers retorted: the army may have won, but the government has lost.” Thereon, when the government constituted a team to look into all aspects of the Kargil conflict, the Congress expectantly denounced the inquiry by questioning the credibility of those charged with the responsibility of conducting the inquiry.
In all these attempts, Sonia Gandhi led Congress didn’t realize that they were just not playing the role of the opposition and questioning the current government, but were actually challenging the Armed Forces. Thousands of martyrs had laid down their lives in the war, and Sonia Gandhi’s acts and statements were highly insulting to them. Not only that, by choosing to criticize the armed forces, allege a loss when there was a victory and side by the enemy nation, the grand old party known for the freedom struggle had crossed over the line to be deemed as anti-nationals.
After realizing the atmosphere of the country was extremely patriotic, and that her allegations against the Vajpayee government were falling flat, Sonia Gandhi sought to remind the voters of Indira Gandhi and 1971’s decisive victory against Pakistan, leading to the creation of Bangladesh. But this failed to reason with the voters, given that Kargil victory was fresh in their minds.
Where Congress was referring to Kargil as “BJP’s war”, Vajpayee referred to Kargil as a victory of the nation. Needless to say, Congress’ views on the war did not favor amongst the people and they went on to lose the Lok Sabha elections, 1999.
Nevertheless, Congress never stopped belittling the war. The party never celebrated the Kargil Diwas, until NDA MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar asked for it in the Rajya Sabha in 2009. According to a report by Outlook India, a Congress insider said the feeling was that the party did not want to give credit to the BJP for the victory in Kargil. Congress MP Rashid Alvi in 2009 had unabashedly said that he saw no reason to celebrate the Kargil victory and that it was only for the NDA to celebrate.
Sonia Gandhi hadn’t played her cards well in 1999, and the same was emulated by her son, Rahul Gandhi in 2016, after the surgical strikes against Pakistan. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress clan had racked up the issue of surgical strike’s authenticity, another move which had gone against them during the UP Vidhan sabha elections.
Time and again, the army had been belittled and underappreciated for political reasons by the Congress party over and over again. Countless soldiers laid down their lives in the service of the nation, and to derecognize their sacrifice is an unforgivable crime. The voters in the past have shown that this attitude is intolerable and that when it comes to an external threat, the nation is united. Any leader or party that attempts to divulge from this view has no place in the leadership ranks in the country.