The BJP’s move to turn the slogan “Congress kaa haath, garib kaa saath’’ into “Congress kaa haath, Afzal ke saath’’ is beginning to hurt the ruling party in which differences have surfaced Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s call for clemency for Afzal Guru.
On Thursday, senior leader and former chief minister Digvijay Singh strongly opposed the demand raised by J&K leader and other NGOs for mercy for Afzal who was involved in the terrorist attack on Parliament House.
Singh is the second major Congress leader after Mangat Ram Sharma to oppose the demand articulated by most J&K leaders, including the Congress’ chief minister. While Singh is a general secretary at the All India Congress Committee, Sharma is a senior minister in the Azad cabinet. A similar voice of protest had also come from Uttaranchal when Dhirendra Pratap, who holds the rank of minister of state, strongly criticised Azad for his reported stand.
Singh set the parameters before reacting to the controversy— he was not aware of what exactly Azad had said to the Prime Minister on the subject. And two, he was only expressing his “personal opinion’’.
“I strongly feel that any person associated with any terrorist activity does not deserve any clemency,’’ he said, adding that President APJ Abdul Kalam Azad, who is now seized of the matter, would take a decision with due consideration and caution.
Singh’s objection, even if couched as a personal opinion, reflected the sense of unease among Congressmen outside the Valley that the issue would give the BJP a handle and perhaps even embolden terrorists.