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Why UPA took this decision now

The decision by the UPA government to give its final consent to hang Afzal Guru, the main accused in the Parliament attack case, can be viewed in several ways, writes Pankaj Vohra. Afzal's hanging politically motivated gimmick: SAR Geelani

india Updated: Feb 10, 2013 02:25 IST
Pankaj Vohra

The decision by the UPA government to give its final consent to hang Afzal Guru, the main accused in the Parliament attack case, can be viewed in several ways.

The simple method of looking at it is that a strong message of India not being a soft state has been sent out by the government and that any act of terrorism on its soil would not be tolerated in any manner.

The inference is backed by the time line of the final decision, which shows the movement of the file “on a routine basis” and seeks to reinforce the belief in the rule of law prevalent in our country.

However, politically, the decision is being interpreted as an attempt by the government to correct the perception that it was tilted towards the minorities and in its view terrorist acts need to be dealt within the framework of the due process of law rather than emotion of any kind.

The BJP had been demanding Guru’s execution on every poll platform and the hanging has diluted the Saffron party’s agenda for the future giving the Congress a reason to embarrass it on the release of terrorists during the hijacking of the Indian Airlines aircraft in December 1999. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/2/10_02_13-metro11.jpg

In a manner, this could be part of the UPA’s preparatory plans for the next Parliamentary elections.

Thirdly, the hangings of both Ajmal Kasab, the mass murderer of 26/11 and Afzal Guru have taken place during the short tenure of Sushil Kumar Shinde as the home minister.

Thus there will be a tendency in some quarters to conclude that the latest action may dilute the BJP attack on Shinde who has been under fire for his “Hindu terror” remarks and thus force a rethink in the party on its decision to boycott him when Parliament commences.

Shinde is the leader of the House in the Lok Sabha.

In political circles, there is also an opinion that through this action, the UPA has tried to deflect the attention from the spotlight on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi who has been dominating the political space since his visit to the SRCC college of the Delhi University some days ago.

The hanging is also bound to escalate the demand for the execution of some others in the death row including the killers of Rajiv Gandhi and the assassin of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.

While each case has to be seen on its own merit, the difference is evident from the fact that Kasab and Guru were facing serious charges of sedition and waging a war against the country while the others in question were convicted on essentially murder and conspiracy charges. But the issue will continue to generate controversy and give political fodder to the political class.