The arrest of saffron-clad Pragya Singh and her fanatical band of right-wing associates in connection with the Malegaon blasts on September 29, in which six people were killed, has come as a shot in the arm for the beleaguered Congress.
The BJP has made terrorism one of its key issues in the forthcoming assembly elections — the party is in power in three of the six states going to poll — and trained its guns against the Congress, particularly the UPA government at the Centre, for going “soft” on Islamist terror to nurture its “vote bank”.
Now the investigations by Maharashtra’s Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) and subsequent raids in many towns in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra have put the BJP and the Sangh Parivar on the defensive.
The BJP’s anti-terror clamour has lost its moral sheen with most of the arrested persons found to be actively associated with the Sangh Parivar in one way or the other.
Pragya Singh was an office-bearer of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP. Shyam Sahu, another accused in the Malegaon blast, had applied for a BJP ticket in the Indore Municipal Corporation election. Their alleged trainer, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, once headed the ex-servicemen cell of the BJP’s Mumbai unit.
In a knee-jerk reaction, the BJP initially tried to distance itself from the accused.
“The BJP and its affiliated organisations have no association of any kind with the elements involved in violence,” claimed senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu.
But with Uma Bharati rushing in to contradict Naidu, the BJP was embarrassed further. Uma clearly had intervened in order to encash the hardcore Hindutva vote using this issue.
Gradually, though slowly, the BJP has started singing a different tune. Kailash Vijayvargiya, a senior MP minister, said: “If the allegations (by the police) are true, we must ponder over the question as to why Hindus, who never took extremist measures even in the face of worst of provocations, have started resorting to desperate measures.”
Significantly, however, the Congress does not appear too keen to make the Malegaon blasts an election issue. Even in Madhya Pradesh, which has become an infamous breeding ground for fanatics on both sides, the Congress seems reluctant to rake up the issue of “Hindu terrorism”.
A Congress spokesperson, a close confidant of state party chief Suresh Pachauri, reasoned: “Making these arrests an issue will be handing over an emotive issue to the BJP on a platter”.