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Sacrifice of soldiers cannot become political tool: Oppn says BJP using surgical strike ahead of 2019 polls

The Congress on Thursday accused the BJP of using the September 2016 surgical strike for political gains, inviting strong reaction from the ruling party which charged its principal rival with lowering the morale of armed forces.

The political fight between the two parties erupted a day after some private TV news channels aired the video of the strike that the Indian Army carried out on militant launch-pads across the line of control in a retaliatory action shortly after the attack on an army base in Uri in September 2016.

It comes as a prelude to the high-pitched campaign for the 2019 election and the BJP's effort to bring national security to the heart of the political discourse. The BJP recently pulled out of the alliance government in Jammu & Kashmir citing security considerations.

The Congress's chief spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala, said the Narendra Modi government seeks credit for the sacrifice and valour of armed forces, but failed to provide direction and vision to deal with Pakistan.

"Let the ruling dispensation remember that the blood and sacrifice of our brave soldiers cannot become a political vote garnering tool for the Modi Government and the BJP,? he said in a press conference. Surjewala alleged that the BJP "shamelessly politicised" the surgical strike during the March 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

Union minister and senior BJP leader, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said that the BJP had never used the strikes for political gains. "The Congress is alleging that we are playing politics with surgical strikes. Did we rake up the issue during Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka or other elections?" Prasad said at press conference. "I can confidently say that Pakistan must be celebrating the statements given by the Congress party."

Prasad said nothing else can be expected of (Congress President) Rahul Gandhi when he criticises the Indian Army and asks for proof of surgical strikes. He also referred to the Congress president's "khoon ki dalali" (arbitrage in blood) jibe against Modi in the aftermath of surgical strikes. "Has the Congress become so desperate after repeated reverses that you will question the morale, the courage, and commitment of the armed forces?" he asked.

Surjewala said in his conference that the Congress had unequivocally supported the security forces and the government in conducting surgical strikes against terrorists in Pakistan and for taking all steps to demolish the terror infrastructure against the country.

He suggested that similar strikes were conducted in the past too, and former prime ministers such as Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not thump their chests over them. Surjewala said the "apathy" and "incapacity" of the Modi government has resulted in the sacrifice of 146 soldiers, more than 1,600 ceasefire violations by Pakistan and 79 terrorist attacks since September 2016.