Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, 62, clarified on Friday that the Congress had no objection to Afzal Guru being executed.
“The Congress has no problem in executing the death penalty against Afzal Guru,” he told reporters. “However, certain procedures have to be followed when a mercy petition is submitted, as in this case.”
Guru was arrested for his role in the attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi in December 2001. The Supreme Court awarded him the death sentence in 2004.
The BJP has been using the fact that Guru had not yet been executed, as evidence of its charge that the UPA government was soft on terrorists. It claimed the UPA was holding back for fear of losing Muslim votes.
Singh had made a similar statement last year. His repeating it emphatically on poll eve suggests the Congress does believe that the BJP’s sustained propaganda is influencing Hindus against them, and is trying to undo any such damage. It reflects the tussle between the two parties for the Hindu vote, even as the Congress is vying with parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal for the Muslim vote.
Singh also insisted that while the Congress saw the Afzal Guru issue as purely a matter of judicial procedure, the BJP was trying to communalise it.
“Our only objection is to the BJP giving the matter a communal colour,” said Singh. “The saffron leaders are trying to make it a Hindu-Muslim issue. We do not defend Guru or any other terrorists.”
Singh also revealed that BJP’s PM candidate L.K. Advani, as home minister in the NDA regime from 1999 to 2004, had avoided deciding on any of the numerous mercy petitions of convicts on death row pending before his ministry. “These included the killers of Rajiv Gandhi.”