Cong must facilitate, not block terror debate, talks with Pak

  • Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 02, 2015 19:04 IST
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge in Lok Sabha in New Delhi. Key opposition parties, including the Congress, on Thursday boycotted the NDA government’s first invite for talks to break the deadlock in Parliament’s monsoon session. (PTI Photo)

The Congress induced parliamentary logjam at the expense of a debate on terrorism is unlikely to go down well with the people. The BJP knows that and wants perhaps the impasse to continue.

There isn't any other reason for the treasury to mock at the principal opposition--when it should have been trying to cool down tempers--with none other than home minister Rajnath Singh leading the charge.

Singh's claim that the UPA's "Hindu terror" formulation weakened the country's fight against the scourge emphasised just one wrong---the other wrong being the BJP's own relentless campaign to show the Manmohan Singh government as being soft on terror.

Then in the opposition, the party embellished the insinuation with the fictitious slogan of 26/11 accused Kasab feasting on biriyani in Mumbai's Arthur Road jail where the standard fare is vegetarian. Inmates there aren't even served eggs without medical prescription.

Kasab has since been executed. But at that time it was hard to miss the saffron agenda of whipping up the majority's ire by contrasting its imagined treatment of the Pakistani intruder with that of Malegaon case accused Sadhvi Pragya and Lt Col Srikant Purohit!

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Showing a Sadhvi and a fauji being wronged served its political ends, not as much the national interest, polarise as it did a section of the majority against the minority. A point that's seldom made with adequate force is that the resultant communal divide vitiated the social climate so critical in the battle against terrorism.

The concomitant electoral benefits to the BJP were evident in the outcome of the 2014 polls. The wheel has since come a full circle with the Narendra Modi regime refusing to abandon talks with Pakistan in the face of terror strikes.

In this backdrop and popular anxieties over the Gurdaspur attack, followed by the highly divisive public discourse on the hanging of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon, the need for Parliament debating the obtaining situation is a no brainer.

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Politically,the congress could be a big loser if it lets go the opportunity to come across as facilitating, rather than stalling a discussion. It can raise Vyapam and Lalitgate later in the manner it deems fit. For nothing stops it from reverting to stalling tactics if the government remains unresponsive on issues arising out of these scams.

The Congress is being tactically misadvised even in insisting on a reply by the PM rather than the home minister. Modi cannot conceivably not speak on an issue of such significance, especially when he hasn't allowed Gurdaspur to derail the Ufa understanding for talks with Pakistan.

In fact, a full fledged discussion in both houses will be for the PM a fait accompli. He'd either have to speak or risk being seen as running away from Parliament to which he's accountable for his policies and actions. The debate would necessitate his intervention on at least on one question: why must there be an engagement with Islamabad amid unabated cross border terror?

And rather than opposing bilateral talks, the Congress can legitimately celebrate the spectacle of the NDA take the path laid down by the UPA. For mature democracies debate, legislate and at times agitate. That's why engagement can't be renounced, be it with recalcitrant neighbours or adversaries on the home turf.

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