Soon after the CBI told a court that Gujarat Police and the Intelligence had murdered four persons in a fake gunfight in 2004, BJP jumped to the rescue of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, its campaign face for 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Though Modi and his confidant and BJP general secretary Amit Shah were not named in the chargesheet, their political fortunes will not remain untouched by the CBI indictment.
Since Ishrat Jahan, a 19-year-old Mumbai college girl, and three other persons killed in the alleged gunfight were Muslims, Modi will again be the focus of the debate on secularism and minority rights.
A section of BJP leadership hopes more Hindus will take Modi's side in this debate and vote in higher numbers for the party in 2014 than in 2009 elections.
The turn of events suggests Modi may have to battle charges related to "targeting" of minorities right till the polls. The debate will no longer be focused on corruption or inflation as it appeared till some months back, but on whether minorities will accept Modi.
With Amit Shah tasked with leading BJP poll campaign in UP, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats and 18% of total Muslims in India, the polarisation can only intensify and push Muslim voters toward the Congress wherever it is in contention, and towards others who can beat Modi where the Congress is not in the fight.
BJP leaders, however, believe that they have a strong case on the Ishrat encounter case, and CBI indictment will be read by many neutral Hindus as an attempt to demonise Modi. The resultant division, they claim, will benefit the BJP.
"The CBI has been silent on who the men accompanying Ishrat Jahan were. The silence on whether they were foreign nationals and were in touch with terror masterminds over satellite phones raises more questions than answers," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.
She said the chargesheet comes after two affidavits, one filed in 2007 which said information related to terrorists was shared by the IB with the Gujarat police, and the other in 2009, which was filed after the home minister said the Centre had nothing to do with the encounter.
She said IB inputs were made to top cops in states as part of an institutional process of intelligence sharing and were not "personal" in nature.