BJP may face heat from opposition on national security

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New Delhi, Sep 18 The central government is likely to face heat on the issue of national security following Sunday's terror attack on an army camp in Jammu and Kashmir, with the opposition expected to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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The BJP has prided itself as a strong nationalist force and its leaders had boasted how effectively Modi would respond to provocations from across the border if he were to take power.

The audacious attack on the army camp in Uri that left 17 soldiers dead and many injured has made the BJP vulnerable to attacks from an opposition itching to go on the offensive.

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad on Sunday took a dig at Modi and said his failure to tackle the situation in Jammu and Kashmir was to blame for the bloodbath at the army camp near Uri town.

"Modi ki laparwahi aur nakaami se jawan maare ja rahein hain. Kahan gaya Modi ka 56-inch ka seena? (Soldiers are dying due to Modi's failure and negligence. Where is his 56-inch chest?)" Lalu asked sarcastically.

Congress leader Manish Tewari took to Twitter to ask if Bharatiya Janata Party leaders would fulfil their claims of "taking care" of Pakistan.

"Outrage in Uri requires robust response PM. Can u walk rhetoric of muscularity? Biggest attack after 2002? Will India bleed in vain?" Tiwari said.

Pressure also mounted from within for the BJP.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological fountainhead of the party, said that "terrorists, their masters and their supporters should be dealt with firmly and conclusively".

The slaughter of 17 soldiers -- after the death of seven military personnel at Pathankot in January and nine months after Modi made a dramatic trip to Lahore to wish birthday greetings to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif -- has put the BJP and Modi in a dilemma.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jatiley quickly blamed Pakistan for the killings. Pakistan denied the accusation while the US and Britain refrained from getting into blamegame even as they denounced the death of Indian soldiers.

Modi said those behind the Uri attack won't escape "unpunished" but political analysts said the government was likely to act in a manner that does not escalate into a conflict with Pakistan.

Political commentator S. Nihal Singh said the Modi government may go for a combination of military and diplomatic options.

"They will have to take some retaliatory step. They have to decide what kind of step it should be. On the diplomatic front, they have to decide whether to break off relations or not but that would be an extreme step," Nihal Singh told IANS.

He said the country expected some retaliation and that it has to come "reasonably soon", otherwise the "momentum will be gone". "How to calibrate a response without expanding the conflict. Basically, that is the problem."

Former diplomat Kuldip Nayar said the government may look for options that do not lead to war. Covert actions were possible.

"I don't think India will go to such an extent that they (Pakistan) are provoked into war," he said.

He did warn that the tense relationship with Pakistan would worsen after Sunday's killings.

Relations between India and Pakistan have been hit hard after Islamabad came out in support of the mass unrest in the Kashmir Valley following the killing of a militant in July.

And with Modi speaking aggressively in support of Baloch separatists in Pakistan, Islamabad and New Delhi appear to be in no mood to shake hands - for now.

If the BJP is not seen to be "punishing" Pakistan, the party will have a hard time explaining its nationalist credentials in assembly elections due next year in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarkhand and Goa.

IANS

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