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The killers of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi will soon walk free, Tamil Nadu declared on Wednesday, a heavily political decision that angered the Congress party but is likely to win votes in the state.
The seven convicts to be let go from Vellore prison include three -- Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan -- whose death penalty was commuted to a life term by the Supreme Court on Tuesday on the grounds that the central government had taken too long to decide on their mercy pleas. The court had left a decision on remission of the sentences to the state government.
Rajiv's son and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, speaking in Amethi, said he was saddened by the decision. " I am personally against the death penalty but this is not about my father. If a Prime Minister's killers are being released, what kind of justice should the common man expect?" he said.
But a measure of how emotive the Sri Lankan Tamil issue still is in Tamil Nadu (TN), and how much of an electoral hot potato, could be gauged by the reaction of finance minister P Chidambaram, a Tamilian, who said that he was "not unhappy" with the decision.
In light of the verdict we asked our readers if they supported Tamil Nadu government's decision to release Rajiv Gandhi's assassins. A majority, 64%, of responders answered in the negative while 33% of the 3,627 who responded to the hindustantimes.com poll said they supported the verdict.