A war of words broke out between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress over the hanging of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts accused Yakub Memon on Thursday.
While Congress leaders Digvijaya Singh and Shashi Tharoor raised questions on the credibility of the government and judiciary, the BJP accused them of making "bizarre" comments and "insulting" people.
Yakub got every opportunity to express his point of view in different forums, home minister Rajnath Singh said, asking people to be united on issues like terrorism.
The lone death row convict in the Mumbai serial blasts case was hanged at 7am amid massive security on his 53rd birthday. He was sentenced to death for the dozen explosions that rocked India’s financial capital, killing 257 people and leaving more than 700 injured.
Yakub became only the third person – all terrorists – to be executed in the last decade after 26/11 convict Ajmal Kasab in 2012 and Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru a year later. India is one of 21 countries to enforce capital punishment but executions have slowed down, though hundreds are on death row.
As the hanging reignited the death penalty debate, Digvijaya Singh said the government and judiciary should display the same "exemplary urgency and commitment" in all terror cases.
For his part, Tharoor said "state-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too". He, however, later added that he was not going into the merits of the Yakub case but was opposed "to the principle and practice of the death penalty in our country".
Yakub, the only well-educated member of the Memon family was found guilty of criminal conspiracy, arranging money for buying vehicles used by the bombers and organising air tickets to Dubai for some of them.
In a series of tweets, Digvijaya Singh said, "I hope similar commitment of Govt and Judiciary would be shown in all cases of terror irrespective of their caste creed and religion...I have my doubts the way the cases of other Terror accused are being conducted. Let's see. Credibility of the Govt and Judiciary is at stake."
Union minister Arun Jaitley said such "irresponsible" statements by Congress leaders were a cause of concern. "We expect Sonia Gandhi (Congress president) to clarify before the nation," he said.
BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma said the Congress leaders' remarks underlined the conflicting voices in the opposition party over the issue of terrorism. "He (Tharoor) is insulting the peace-loving people who want to get rid of terrorism."
Talking tough on terrorism, home minister Rajnath Singh said: "We must take terrorism as a challenge and should not project ourselves as divided so that we can succeed in defeating it."
Commenting on a Supreme Court hearing to stay Yakub's execution being held late at night, Singh said it was for the first time in world's history that the highest court of the country heard someone's plea for mercy at such an hour in the morning.
Hours before his death, a three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra started hearing plea for deferring Yakub’s execution at 3.20am but ruled he was given enough opportunities. Earlier on Wednesday, the same bench upheld the validity of Yakub’s death warrant, saying he had exhausted all options.
The CPI(M), meanwhile, termed the execution of Yakub a "miscarriage of justice", while the CPI said the death penalty should be done away within the country.
AIMIM leader and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi said the government should ensure death sentence in all similar cases, echoing Digvijaya Singh's tweets.
"Death sentence should also be given to Babu Bajrangi, Maya Kodnani, Lt Col Purohit and Swami Aseemanand," he said. While Bajrangi and Kodnani are accused in the Gujarat riots, Lt Col Purohit and Swami Aseemanand are accused in the Malegaon blasts.
Owaisi had earlier kicked up a storm saying that Yakub was targeted because of his religion.