With the 1984 anti-Sikh riots returning to haunt the Congress, the party has started a damage control exercise, with the resignation of Sajjan Kumar a day after his conviction by the Delhi High Court a part of that attempt. The BJP, meanwhile, has stepped up its attack on the Congress.
AICC in-charge P C Chacko, sources said, has been in touch with Kumar. The party, sources said, wanted him to resign as AICC member and lie low while he fights the legal battle and appeals in the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, Kumar informed Congress president Rahul Gandhi that he has resigned from the primary membership of the party.
Sources in the Delhi Congress said Kumar’s conviction will not affect the working of the party, but admitted that it does hurt its image. “He is already sidelined… he is not the Sajjan of the past,” a senior Delhi Congress leader said. With Lok Sabha elections approaching, the Congress, it is learnt, wants the issue to be put to rest.
Rahul parried a question on Kumar at a media interaction in Parliament. He spoke at length on farm loan waiver and the Rafale fighter jet deal, but when asked about Kumar and the 1984 riots, he said: “My position on the riots I have made it very clear before. That is absolutely clear. The issue here is very simple. This press conference is on the kisans of this country.”
The last time he spoke on the anti-Sikh riots was in August. While talking to UK-based MPs and leaders in London then, Rahul had said that the Congress was not involved in the anti-Sikh riots that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
The BJP, meanwhile, used the issue to counter an aggressive Congress in Parliament. As soon as the Congress raised the Rafale issue in Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said the government was ready to discuss all issues, including Rafale.
“The Congress is running away from a debate because the Supreme Court has given its verdict. Two court verdicts have come against the Congress — one on Rafale and another on the massacre of Sikhs in 1984. The Congress should apologise on both the issues,” he said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said: “I welcome the judgement on Sajjan Kumar. I hope all other politicians who were involved in the Sikh genocide will get the harshest of punishment. I also hope justice will be done for all other mass murders in the country after that, be it 2002 or Muzaffarnagar. All such riots are carried out for political benefits… Hindus and Muslims don’t want to fight…”