The Congress on Thursday accused the Narendra Modi-led government and the Bharatiya Janata Party of using the armed forces and the 2016 surgical strikes for political gains. The party’s comments came a day after news channels aired a video purportedly showing the strikes.

“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,” All India Congress Committee communication in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a statement.

He said the surgical strikes were “shamelessly politicised by the BJP” during the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2017.

Surjewala said that Modi government was seeking credit for the sacrifice and valour of the armed forces, even as he failed to provide direction and vision to deal with Pakistan. He also accused the government of meting out a “step-motherly treatment” to the armed forces by not providing them with advanced equipment and cutting down budgetary allocation.

Surjewala questioned the impact of the surgical strikes since terror attacks continued post 2016, resulting in the killing of at least 146 soldiers. “Every time the Modi government fails in their promises, why do they use the sacrifice of our soldiers for their political gains?”

The Bharatiya Janata Party criticised the Opposition party for politicising the matter. “Surprised that Congress that ruled India for more than five decades, is speaking in a language which is in tune with separatists and Pakistani establishment,” ANI quoted Union minister Kiren Rijiju as saying. “Congress demanded proof of surgical strike and now when proof has started emerging, they are saying it is for publicity.”

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress of attempting to destroy the Army’s morale and bolstering the confidence of terrorists in Pakistan. “Has Congress party become so desperate after their electoral defeats, that they will challenge the morale of the Indian Army?” he asked.

Prasad said that when the whole country was praising the Army, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using the death of Indian soldiers in Kashmir for political gains.

TV news channels aired video clips of the surgical strikes which showed suspected terrorists being killed, bunkers and military construction being destroyed across the Line of Control, reported The Indian Express. The channels claimed that they were accessed from official sources and taken by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Thermal Imaging cameras used by the Army to monitor the operation.

“The videos are real,” retired Lieutenant General DS Hooda told The Indian Express. Hooda was the former Northern Army Commander directly in-charge of the surgical strikes. The feed of these videos was reportedly broadcast live during the surgical strikes to the operations room of his headquarters in Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir.

“When the surgical strikes happened, my view was that the videos should have been released as proof,” Hooda said. “It is good that they have come out now.”

Surgical strikes

On September 29, 2016, Indian Army’s then Director General of Military Operations Ranbir Singh that the Army had carried out “surgical strikes on terror launchpads” across the Line of Control the previous night. Singh had said that the action was taken after receiving information about infiltrators planning to cross the LoC.

Pakistan, however, said that India was deliberately and erroneously using the term surgical strikes to describe existing “cross-border fire” operations in an effort to “create false effects” and “media hype”.

A surgical strike is a military attack aimed to harm only the target and ensure minimal collateral damage to general public infrastructure and utilities around the intended target.