The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mumbai safety alarm for Shinde

Mumbai, Aug. 25: The embattled state government could not have missed the roar of the blasts today: people saying loud and clear they were not safe.

“I have just four words to tell the chief minister,’’ Internet cafe owner Kuldip Sharma said. “We are not safe.”

The BJP was quick to feel the mood of the people and went after chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, already humiliated by the Mumbai bandh the Shiv Sena had called recently with support from several Muslim groups to protest a bus blast.

The BJP demanded President’s Rule. New state chief Gopinath Munde said recurrent bomb blasts in the city had exposed the government’s inability to provide the “most basic need of security”.

“Along with other things, the state government’s intelligence network has failed. There should be investigations (into the blasts) by the CBI,’’ he said.

Worse still for the Democratic Front coalition was the Prime Minister’s call for a state report on the blasts. Turning on the heat further will be his deputy, .K. Advani, who is scheduled to visit the attack sites and meet the injured tomorrow. He may also visit the families of those killed.

Shinde groped for a way out of the relentless fire by urging political parties not to make capital out of a tragedy. “We have to remain united and fight the forces plotting against us. There are forces which don’t like our prosperity.’

He vowed to bring the guilty to book soon, but presented no concrete plan.

His only ally appeared to be his deputy, Chhagan Bhujbal. “What is the use of targeting such incidents for narrow gains,’’ he said. “We are doing our best to defeat such terrorist forces and have taken help from the central agencies. We are in as much pain as the victims.’’

His impassioned plea to people not to heed the Sena’s bandh call had fallen on deaf ears.

BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan cranked up the pressure by repeating the demand for the government’s dismissal. “The government should go on moral grounds,’’ he said.

Hinting at a “popular agitation” this time, Sena leader Raj Thackeray described the blasts as the “government’s glorious failure”.

The residents, however, bothered little with the politicians and their opinions. They were busy helping the injured.

Akram Habibullah Khan came to the rescue of a Gujarati tourist, who stepped on glass splinters from the nearby Taj hotel while running from the blast at the Gateway of India.

“I gave him my sandals,” Khan said. “I can walk barefoot for some time.’’ The tourist was bleeding badly.

At GT Hospital, more than 200 people queued up to donate blood for the 42 victims admitted with injuries. “Nobody knows anybody here, but they all want to help,’’ Ekta, a nurse, said. “God comes in many forms.”

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