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National and local at odds on release plan

New Delhi, Feb. 20: “Misconceived compassion” was how Arun Jaitley titled his Facebook post today on Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s announcement to release the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Yesterday, the BJP had largely remained silent on the move, citing its preoccupation with the fate of the Telangana bill in the upper House of Parliament as a reason.

There was not a squeak from Narendra Modi who claims, figuratively of course, that only an individual with a chest measuring 56 inches can take on terrorists.

Even today, the BJP’s Prime Minister candidate didn’t utter a word on the issue, not even on his Twitter site.

However, Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Jaitley, in a veiled criticism of Jayalalithaa’s decision, said: “After assassinating a former PM of the country that there can be institutional compassion for such persons is difficult to comprehend. Those who commit such heinous crimes cannot be made symbols of identity politics. Nothing more can hurt national security. Terrorism is an offence against the country, it must attract a deterrent punishment.”

Jaitley’s allusion to “identity politics” was derived from the prevalent sentiment in Tamil Naidu’s political spectrum where parties, cutting across labels, had welcomed Jayalalithaa’s announcement.

The BJP was not an exception. Its Tamil Nadu president termed it a “joyous moment”.

State party sources admitted to being “unhappy” with the central leadership’s view that terrorist acts merited the most stringent penalty. “It’s a question of Tamil identity and, in an election season, we cannot sound different from the others,” a state office-bearer said.

The CPI’s central bosses were similarly placed as the BJP because their Tamil Nadu leaders endorsed Jayalalithaa’s declaration. Party general secretary Sudhakar Reddy said: “Our state party has fully supported the decision. At the Centre, we have not formulated a stand.”

CPM sources said their opinion has not yet crystallised.

The dilemma of the Left parties has been accentuated by the fact that they have forged an alliance with Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK to fight the Lok Sabha election.

While the BJP’s concern was not over a pre-poll understanding, it has not ruled out a post-poll arrangement with the AIADMK if its numbers fall short of a majority. But sources said the BJP’s no to Jayalalithaa’s decision would not be a sticking point.

“We are not going to make Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins a campaign plank. Our focus will be on appealing to voters to give a stable government at the Centre that will govern well,” a source said.

AIADMK sources stressed that “Amma’s” reflexes were conditioned by “principles” and not by “politics”. “We are not here to play politics with convicts. It is a matter of pure principle to seek the release of those who have served a prison sentence for more than two decades. The issue will not be part of our election discourse. Post-election alliances are not even on our radar,” claimed an AIADMK MP.

However, the Congress has decided to grandstand to try and paint the BJP into a corner and not the Tamil Nadu parties. Expectedly, its target was Modi and its point was if he could allegedly have innocents killed in fake encounters under the ruse of combating terrorism, why was he mum on speaking out against genuine terrorists?

“Today I ask why is Modi quiet on this issue?” said Union minister Kapil Sibal. “The sad reality is that some political parties have always remained silent on this issue which sends out a wrong message. In some states, fake encounters are taking place in the name of terrorism while in other states, terrorists are being freed. This is wrong.”

All parties were, however, agreed on one thing: that Jayalalithaa would gain handsomely from this “masterstroke”.

“We have been squeezed out of the contest,” a DMK MP said, adding that the Congress/Centre’s move to appeal in the Supreme Court had effectively shut the doors on an alliance with the Congress.

Vijayakanth’s DMDK, which was flirting with the Congress and the BJP for a pre-poll understanding, ruled out both.

daughter cry

Murugan and Nalini’s daughter Harithra has “begged” Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi not to block an opportunity for her to reunite with her parents after 23 years.“I am begging you, please do not stop that (their release), that would be the best thing they could do for me,” Harithra told a TV channel in London where she stays with her grandparents.
Harithra said she was “very upset and disappointed” when she heard about the Supreme Court stay. “Yesterday, when this news came out that they are going to be released I was very excited that somebody could give them back to me after 23 years…. I have had a terrible time without my parents.”