Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s decision to release convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case has gained traction in Tamil Nadu, but will have political repercussions for both the Congress and the BJP.
One, it has put paid to the possibility of the Congress being able to persuade the DMK and, indeed, even the Vijaykanth-led DMDK, to join hands with it for the Lok Sabha election. Not only has the Centre moved the Supreme Court opposing the decision, the Congress has publicly castigated the Tamil Nadu government for the move.
Two, while some of the BJP’s national leaders have criticised the T.N. government’s action, the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, has so far been silent on the issue. The AIADMK may have been disinclined to have a pre-election arrangement with the BJP, but there were indications that in a post-poll situation, it may back a Modi-headed, BJP-led government at the Centre. Now, that could be in jeopardy unless the BJP treads a fine line, said party sources.
On Thursday, senior DMK MPs The Hindu spoke to categorically said there was no question of any electoral arrangement with the Congress now, even as they stressed that Ms. Jayalalithaa’s decision was absolutely correct. Curiously, they were of the view that since there was to be no pre-poll AIADMK-BJP arrangement, and the general election was some time away, AIADMK’s support for a BJP-led government could not be ruled out.
AIADMK MPs, on their part, refused to comment on the political fallout of the move, only stressing that the decision was taken as it was the right thing to do, and not because of any political calculations.
The Congress, taking its cue from party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s unhappiness with the Tamil Nadu government’s decision, criticised the move. A host of senior leaders, including MPs Mani Shankar Aiyar, Hanumanth Rao and Renuka Chowdhury , and Union Ministers Anand Sharma, Krishna Tirath , Manish Tewari and Rajiv Shukla, described the decision as being politically motivated and taken with an eye on the general election.
At the party’s official briefing, Congress spokesperson Shashi Tharoor, dismissing suggestions that the Congress was isolated in Tamil Nadu over the issue, said: “We do not play politics with terrorism. We do not give any quarter to it. Acts of terror directed at Indian citizens must be firmly resisted. We do not see any difference in one kind of terrorism from another.”
Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal, on his part, took a potshot at the BJP for practising “double standards” on terror: “I want to ask a specific question to Narendra Modi: why are you quiet on this? It’s not just a wrong signal on your behalf. It also sends a wrong signal on behalf of your party.
While Mr. Modi remained silent, his party colleague and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley chose to criticise the AIADMK government’s action in a blog post titled ‘Misconceived compassion’. “After assassinating a former Prime Minister of the country how there can be institutional compassion for such persons is difficult to comprehend.”
On Wednesday, BJP’s deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad had said: “This talk of compassion for the killers of Rajiv Gandhi is a matter of concern for BJP because in this whole exercise, a very serious crime of the cruel assassination of a former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi is being ignored altogether.”
Later, when asked whether this criticism would affect the party’s bonhomie with the AIADMK, a senior BJP leader told The Hindu : “Ours is a mature relationship.”