For once, politics took the backseat as the government and the opposition BJP spoke along the same lines, sending out messages of unity and resolving to combat terrorism in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
“No politics and no blame game for now” was their response on Thursday to the events in Mumbai, described as India’s worst terror attack.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani spoke at least thrice since Wednesday night, when the first reports of the attacks came in. BJP president Rajnath Singh said his party was with the government “at this hour” on the challenge posed by the terrorists. Party leader Arun Jaitley said, “We think the government knows best how to handle the crisis now.”
For her part, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said the terror attacks in Mumbai would be met “resolutely” and the country would defeat the threat posed by the enemies of the nation.
Since the party had been under opposition fire until now — in the run-up to the assembly elections in six states — for soft-pedalling the terror issue, Congress sources spoke of using the Parliament session starting December 10 to convey the country’s resolve to unitedly fight terror. The session could also be used to make a case for a federal anti-terror agency and strengthen anti-terror laws, a major demand of the opposition parties.
In the morning, Advani accepted the PM’s invitation to join him for a visit to Mumbai. Later, when he was told Singh might not travel immediately, Advani informed him that he and Jaswant Singh would go ahead and visit the wounded and families of those killed in Mumbai. In the evening, Singh flew down separately with Sonia and SP’s Amar Singh.
“I am traumatised by the events in Mumbai since last night,” Advani said. “The terrorists have declared a full-scale war on India and sought to sever the country’s economic nerve with their meticulously planned carnage across the metropolis.”
He emphasised that the entire country should stay united and calm. Advani paid tributes to ATS chief Hemant Karkare and other police officers, who lost their lives. RSS chief K. Sudarshan too praised Karkare and appealed for calm and unity.
Sonia sent out a message of reassurance while underlining that the Centre and the Maharashtra government assess the security scenario and take immediate steps to boost security. “We will rest only after eliminating terrorism,” she said.
There was a sense of unease in some sections of the party that the Mumbai attacks could mar the Congress’s prospects in the ongoing assembly elections.