Congress cosy for now, but Afzal Guru may haunt party

Under fire for a barrage of alleged omissions and commissions, the timing of the execution of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab has generated a win-win situation for the Congress at both national and the state levels. Aurangzeb Naqshbandi and Ketaki Ghoge report. The tacky bill | The heroes of 26/11
By Aurangzeb Naqshbandi and Ketaki Ghoge | Hindustan Times, New Delhi/mumbai
UPDATED ON NOV 22, 2012 09:01 AM IST

Under fire for a barrage of alleged omissions and commissions, the timing of the execution of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab has generated a win-win situation for the Congress at both national and the state levels.

While nationally, the UPA government had been cornered by Opposition allegations of going soft on terror, in Maharashtra, the Congress-NCP government has been on the backfoot over a series of scams.

The delay in Kasab’s execution had raised questions over spending crores from the exchequer on his security. In Maharashtra, the security front had been shaky, with several lapses including the Pune blasts and the Azad Maidan violence in Mumbai.

The Congress, thus, is going to derive maximum political mileage from the move, which comes a day ahead of the winter session of Parliament and five days before the fourth anniversary of 26/11. There are also hopes that it might turn the tide in the party’s favour not only in Gujarat – where assembly elections are less than a month away – but also throughout the country.

“It will certainly help us stay afloat in many assembly polls next year as well as in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections,” a senior leader said.

The move also had the advantage of putting the BJP off balance – the party had no option but to welcome it. But the flip side is that it may now try to push through a decision on the death sentence of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru – a thorny issue, given the mood in J&K.

The expectation of the Congress on this score was not unfounded. Shortly after the news of Kasab’s execution broke, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi questioned the delay in carrying out Guru’s death sentence. The tacky bill | The heroes of 26/11

In fact, the Congress might have to face some trouble not only regarding the issue of Guru, but that of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers, and Khalistani terrorists Balwant Singh Rajoana and Devinder Singh Bhullar. Rajoana is the prime accused in the Beant Singh assassination case.

Bhullar is facing a death sentence for plotting the murder of MS Bitta. But their sentences have not been carried out due to possible repercussions in Tamil Nadu and Punjab.

In Maharashtra, it has generated goodwill and trust where there was none, say political observers. "It indicates that the government is in control," said political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar.

Another plus for the ruling alliance is that the execution, carried out barely a couple of days after Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray’s death, is likely to shift the focus from the Sena and the grieving Thackeray family.

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