The hangings of two major terror convicts — Ajmal Amir Kasab and Afzal Guru — in a gap of two-and-half months is to change the image of the UPA government that is criticised for being too soft on terrorism and security issues, say BJP leaders.
They also see it as a bid to rob the saffron party of its often aggressive pitch on the issue of national security ahead of the 2014 polls.
Leaders of the main opposition party also see it as a strategy to deflect attention from their current campaign against home minister SK Shinde's remark at a Congress conclave last month about BJP and RSS running camps where terrorists were trained.
Also, some party leaders do not rule out the possibility that the latest decision of hanging Afzal Guru was somehow influenced by talks of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi being projected as the PM candidate by BJP.
“Modi's much-talked about ‘foray’ into Delhi last week could have also accelerated matters though he had not focused much on security issues in his interaction post-Gujarat polls,” said a party strategist.
Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, said, “For reasons which the government has been unable to explain, the execution was delayed. Finally, the law has taken its own course. Public opinion has compelled the government to act and enforce the law. India must today, as it did on December 13, 2001, speak in one voice and give a clear message to the world that we are not a soft state and those who attack India, its sovereignty and its institutions, will be held accountable. Though belated, justice has been done.”
Nevertheless, the party also highlights the timing of the hanging, which came a day after BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi announced a gherao of the PM's residence to force Shinde to apologise for his “Hindu terror” remark.
If Kasab was hanged on November 21 last year, a day before Parliament's winter session opened, the hanging of Afzal Guru came nearly 10 days before the start of the budget session on February 21.
Many BJP leaders also say the party would have to review its strategy in the wake of the hangings.
“We have repeatedly demanded the hanging of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru. With the two now dead, we can no longer make them an issue against the UPA. There are, however, other issues relating to the security of common people, particularly which came into focus following the December 16 gang rape of a 23-year-old student,” said a senior BJP functionary.