Afzal & Rajoana

BJP wants one to hang tomorrow,yet lets its ally play politics with the other

Written by The Indian Express | Published: March 30, 2012 2:59 am

BJP wants one to hang tomorrow,yet lets its ally play politics with the other

The Centre’s decision to put on hold the execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana,convicted for the assassination of former chief minister Beant Singh,looks suspiciously like a cave-in to pressure ratcheted up by Punjab’s ruling party. In turn,the Shiromani Akali Dal’s position speaks of a politics disrespectful of the rule of law and disconnected from ground-level realities. The SAD has just won a historic second successive term and that victory came at the end of a campaign that confidently focused on “development”,setting the tone for a political debate that acknowledged that the “panthic agenda” has lost the popular moorings it had acquired in an earlier,more insecure political moment. Yet,not long after that famous victory,the SAD has lapsed into an older political idiom. In this,it’s aided and abetted by the silence and obfuscation of its main political rival,the Congress. And the outright double standard of its ally,the BJP.

The Congress’s cultivated ambiguity on the Rajoana case,and its failure to speak up for the due process of law,seems to flow from the fact that the party is on the backfoot in Punjab. It has just lost an election it was expecting to win with ease. In a larger sense,vis-a-vis an issue that could be labelled as “panthic”,the Congress is still haunted by the ghosts of the anti-Sikh violence in 1984.

But if the Congress is guilty of cravenness,the BJP’s reticence in speaking up for the due and lawful procedure speaks of blatant hypocrisy. Along with the SAD,the BJP has just won the election. It’s the national party in the alliance. It’s also the party that never fails to attack the politicisation of another pending death sentence — of Afzal Guru convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack case. In fact,the BJP has made the “delay” in the Afzal Guru case the leitmotif of a concerted campaign against the Congress. The party must be called to account for its silent acquiescence with the SAD’s politically charged call for clemency to Rajoana.

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