The Congress has appointed Lt General (retired) DS Hooda, who oversaw the surgical strike in September 2016, to head a task force on national security.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi met Lt Gen Hooda on February 21 in order to discuss the functioning of the task force. Gandhi also met a group of experts to chalk out effective strategies to guard the border.
Lt Gen Hooda told news agency ANI that he would be happy to take up the offer:
Earlier on February 21, the Congress had accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of being insensitive to the Pulwama attack, alleging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was shooting for a documentary in Uttarakhand’s Jim Corbett National Park on the evening of February 14, when the Pulwama terror attack had taken place in the afternoon of the same day.
For the Congress to appoint Lt Gen Hooda to head a panel on national security is somewhat hypocritical, if not ironical, considering the number of times the Grand Old Party has dismissed and discredited the surgical strike.
The surgical strike was a retaliatory measure taken by the NDA government on the intervening night of September 29 -30, 2016 in response to the Uri attack that had killed 17 Indian soldiers in the same year. The Congress has, however, repeatedly asked for its proof, even claiming that it was “fake”.
President of the Mumbai Congress, Sanjay Nirupam, had at that time tweeted, “Every Indian wants Surgical Strikes against Pakistan but not a fake one to extract just political benefit by BJP.” After he was slammed for his tweet, he had offered a clarification saying, "I'm not saying you release all video footage, I don't think so either... as it may not be in the interest of national security... but there is a need to show some proof."
Striking a similar note, former finance minister P Chidambaram had said, “UPA did PoK strikes too, but it is up to the present government to give proof of the surgical strikes. The much-hyped surgical strike on last Wednesday night was not the only time that Army had crossed the LoC to take punitive action.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan has always maintained the narrative that no such attack by the Indian army had taken place. To this, Congress national spokesperson Anand Sharma urged PM Modi to "expose" Pakistan by putting forth credible evidence about the surgical strikes. He had said, "The government must expose Pakistan's denial. It has all the tools and instruments to do so.”
However, this is what Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president of the party at that time, had said in the aftermath of the surgical strike – "Jinhone Hindustan ke liye surgical strike kiye hain, unke khoon ke peeche aap chhupe hain. Unki aap dalali kar rahe ho. Yeh bilkul galat hai” – which roughly translates to “You [Modi] are hiding behind the blood of soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir and those who carried out the surgical strikes for India. You are exploiting their sacrifices, which is very wrong.”
In fact, Gandhi had reiterated this sentiment in as recent as December 2018, accusing PM Modi for using “surgical strikes for political capital”.
Reacting to Congress’ move of appointing Lt Gen Hooda, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
said, “It is a belated and grudging recognition and acceptance of the surgical strikes of 2016 with which the General was intrinsically associated.”