NCP-Congress targets Muslim votes after Malegaon blast case

Meena Menon

Pawar has been saying terrorism has no religion

Congress-NCP chose a Muslim-dominated area for meeting

MUMBAI: The ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra, which has decided to fight the Lok Sabha elections together on a secular plank, is trying to regain lost ground with the minorities.

The investigation into the Malegaon bomb blast case of 2008 has not come a moment too soon.

Even before the arrests in the Malegaon case, NCP head and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had been hitting out at stereotyping a single community and labelling it as terrorist. He has been at pains to say that terrorism has no religion.

The Congress, which was in imminent danger of losing the confidence of the minorities, hopes to salvage some pride with the aggressive investigation which has so far resulted in the arrest of two religious leaders and a serving army officer. While right-wing groups have been severely critical of the investigation by the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) – senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde even demanded an apology if the ATS failed to produce proof – the case will have far-reaching repercussions.

It was significant then that on November 14, the occasion of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth anniversary, the Congress-NCP chose to have a joint public meeting in Govandi, a Muslim-dominated area. Clearly aiming at the elections next year, Mr. Pawar made a forceful speech in Hindi and Marathi, which left no doubt about the mandate of the coalition.

He launched a blistering attack on all those defending the accused in the Malegaon bomb blasts case. Once again, he blamed the demolition of the Babri Masjid for giving rise to terrorism. He said if one member of a particular community made a mistake then the entire community could not be blamed. Even in the case of the Malegaon blasts, just because some Hindus had been suspected did not mean that the entire community was at fault.

The NCP and Congress have also been defending the arrest of the army officer while saying that the entire institution of the Army has not been maligned. Mr. Pawar quoted from an interview in a weekly newsmagazine to emphasise that members of right-wing organisations were quite open about their terrorist inclinations.

The public meeting echoed a demand to fight communalism and regional chauvinism in very strong terms.

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