Remorse for a terrible deed, even in hindsight, is not a bad thing. But when such remorse comes about more than two decades after an incident and it fits in nicely with a person’s attempts to capture some political space, we cannot take it at face value.
Samajwadi Party strongman Mulayam Singh Yadav has informed people that he is deeply regretful of the firing on kar sevaks in Ayodhya in 1990 when he was chief minister.
The kar sevaks had gathered in the town as the campaign for the Ram mandir was at its height at that time. Quite an about-turn for Mr Yadav, once seen as the messiah of the Muslims.
But it is clear that this admission is clearly owing to political expediency. In the same breath, the SP leader has spoken of a third front led by his party, though he rules himself out as prime minister for the moment.
The third front, that amorphous being which tries to take shape as every election draws near, is one of those political creatures that defies ideological description.
A third front is comprised of a clutch of parties which have nothing in common except perhaps a dislike of the two big national parties. To get these disparate forces to work together as a cohesive unit is honestly beyond the ken of the leaders in the political firmament today. But, this is not to say that the threat of a third front is without its political uses.
For a start, the big two will actively woo the ringleaders of the third front and so Mr Yadav has done well to sound the charge so early on.
Some of the parties like the JD(U) will tilt according to ideological compulsions but the others in a possible third front basket will go where the power and pelf is. Some, of course, are unpredictable like Mamata Banerjee and it will take a strong leader to invite her into his or her parlour.
As the war of words between the Congress and the BJP hots up, we can expect to see politically loaded statements from third fronters with an eye to getting noticed. Will Ms Banerjee express regret for driving investment out of West Bengal? Or Nitish Kumar for pulling out of the NDA in Bihar? Watch this space.