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A vote against terror as a poll issue

Having been a victim of terrorism itself - and many times over, Delhi grieved with Mumbai, and was equally angry. But it was angrier still with the attempt to politicize terrorism. And it responded with democracy's best weapon --- the ballot, writes Vinod Sharma.

delhi Updated: Dec 09, 2008 01:15 IST
Vinod Sharma

The politician got it wrong. So did the wily punter.

The message from Delhi and Rajasthan which went to polls after the terrorist attack on Mumbai, isn’t just about a Congress win and a BJP defeat. It’s a mandate at once against the terrorists’ designs to manipulate democracy and the saffron party’s attempt at making political capital out of it.

Having been a victim of terrorism itself many times over, Delhi grieved with Mumbai, and was equally angry. But it was angrier with the attempt to politicise terrorism. And it responded with democracy’s best weapon — the ballot.

“The verdict is for national unity against terrorism,” said Congress working committee member Devendra Dwivedi. He implored the BJP to come up with “credible planks” relatable to popular aspirations.

A Congress leader who did not want to be named felt V.K. Malhotra’s promise of sending Afzal Guru to the gallows within a week of becoming CM was pathetically negative. “He was destined to lose as he ran a morbid campaign.”

Vijay Jolly, the spirited BJP’s campaigner defeated by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, saw no harm in making terrorism an issue. “It was an issue and will be an issue till the UPA shows resolve to fight terror.”

The electorate disagreed with Jolly and his party bigwigs who backtracked when their “fight terror, vote BJP” ad-campaign in the aftermath of Mumbai triggered anger, even revulsion among wide sections of their core urban middle class constituents.

As much misplaced in the prevailing gloom was Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s dramatic appearance before TV cameras in the backdrop of Mumbai’s Taj hotel where NSG commandoes were still at work.

The BJP’s focus on national security and terrorism was ruse for communal consolidation to which its “secular” partners in the NDA couldn’t possibly object. The game plan failed with the voter placing the country above faith.

Of equal value for the Congress was the amenable Dikshit’s track record as Delhi chief minister and the internal BJP war against Vasundhara Raje in the adjoining desert state: plain and simple politics in other words.