The countdown to Afzal Guru’s hanging had kicked off around two months ago when, at the anniversary of Parliament attack on December 13 last year, top Congress leaders had an impromptu meeting at Parliament building.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and a select few top leaders were present where, according to top sources, discussions veered around the status of Guru’s mercy petition.
Next Friday, at the core committee meeting of the Congress, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde was specifically invited to furnish a status report on Guru’s case – among other things. Shinde reportedly gave a briefing on the issue, and also spoke on queries that had come from Rashtrapati Bhavan. A brief discussion on Guru and related issues also took place.
After Shinde became the home minister in the last reshuffle, Rashtrapati Bhavan had sent back all the files related to mercy pleas pending before the President to the home ministry. The argument given by the Rashtrapati Bhavan officials in favour of the referral was: Shinde may want to review the cases individually before forwarding the final opinion.
While the UPA leadership is believed to have asked Shinde not to sit on the Guru’s file and treat the case on merit basis, he was also clearly asked to keep Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah in the loop.
On February 8, at the core committee meeting on 7 Race Course Road, Shinde again briefed the top leadership on the issue and informed them that President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected the mercy plea.
The home minister also reportedly held a special meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week on the security aspect of taking a call on Guru’s hanging.