Political parties relieved as Rajoana row defused | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Political parties relieved as Rajoana row defused

The political parties of Punjab heaved a sigh of relief as the Union home ministry on Wednesday told the state government to suspend the execution of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh’s assassin Balwant Singh Rajoana.

delhi Updated: Mar 29, 2012 00:34 IST
HT Correspondents

The political parties of Punjab heaved a sigh of relief as the Union home ministry on Wednesday told the state government to suspend the execution of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh’s assassin Balwant Singh Rajoana.

Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal handed over the SGPC’s clemency petition to President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday. In the petition, Badal had pointed out the soaring tensions in the state over the issue.

“There is a complete political unanimity in favour of clemency being granted to Bhai Rajoana. The Congress party as well as the family of the late Beant Singh have also strongly pleaded for clemency,” Badal’s petition said.

Tensions soared in Punjab as the date of Rajoana’s execution —March 31—approached. Clashes broke out in Patiala and Phagwara on Wednesday during the bandh called by Sikh organisations in favour of clemency. Establishments remained closed for the most part of the day.

The decision to put off the execution favoured the political parties also. While the SAD-led Punjab government was under immense pressure from the SGPC to save Rajoana, the Congress did not want to antagonise the Sikhs, which had turned against it in the days of terrorism.

For the BJP, the situation was similar to walking a tightrope. The party wanted to highlight its tough stand against terror. But officially supporting clemency for Rajoana would contradict its position on Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru, for whom it is supporting death penalty.

On the flip side, the BJP has also an urban Hindu constituency in Punjab that still recalls the days of terrorism with fear and unease—but history might be repeated if Rajoana is sent to the gallows.

So, when Badal met senior BJP leaders like LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley in two separate meetings—the latest on Tuesday —the party said it would prefer that the law takes its own course. Swaraj, however, told reporters, “Clemency petitions are also a due process of law.”

Following the home ministry’s decision, Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said, “Our ‘ardas’ has been heard by ‘waheguru’.”