At a time when the BJP was hoping to corner the government on FDI in retail, it was caught unawares on Wednesday with the hanging of Ajmal Kasab.
The party – which showcases national security as its political plank – had to promptly welcome the move, albeit cautiously. There was, however, immediately an attempt to wrest the national security plank back from the government, with BJP leaders wondering why Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru had not yet been hanged.
Stumped, BJP leaders claimed that the execution was timed to score points a day before the winter session of Parliament, in which the opposition wants to corner it on FDI in retail and graft.
“Better late than never,” said BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad. “Kasab’s hanging will act as a balm on the wounds of the people of Mumbai, but their wounds are still fresh. They will get relief only when Kasab’s handlers from across the border are brought to justice.”
BJP president Nitin Gadkari wondered why Afzal Guru had not been hanged. “I want to ask the UPA government why Afzal Guru has not been hanged even ten years after the incident.”
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “What about Afzal Guru, who attacked the Parliament, our temple of democracy, in 2001? That offence predates Kasab's heinous act by many years.”
BJP spokesperson Ramnath Kovind told HT: “Earlier, the government justified the delay in hanging Afzal Guru citing a queue of death row convicts, saying it had to go sequentially. Now it has broken the queue, proving it was trying to misguide people earlier to serve its vote bank politics.”
The national security plank is crucial for the BJP in two ways: to claim that it alone stands for a powerful India, and also to tacitly suggest that minorities, unless ‘mainstreamed’, could be threats to national security.