Rumours rife over UPA poll preparation

Back to back executions of two convicted terrorists –in the space of just three months—has sparked off speculations that the Congress-led UPA may be considering advancing the Lok Sabha polls scheduled for May 2014.

The hanging of Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru, coming closely after sending 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab to the gallows on November 21, 2012, has been widely seen as the Congress sending a strong message that it is prepared to act tough on terrorism, effectively neutralising criticism by the main opposition BJP that the government is soft on internal security.

Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav had recently stated that the UPA was considering advancing elections to September this year. He had predicted that the UPA would unveil a feel-good budget with populist programmes and go for elections.
The move to hang the two terrorists is seen as a politico-strategic masterstroke as it takes the sting out of the BJP’s attack over the last many years that Congress was indulging in appeasing of minority by not hanging the two terrorists, especially the Jaish-e-Mohammed extremist Guru.

Just as how it timed Kasab’s execution ahead of elections to Gujarat and Himachal, Afzal’s hanging too comes before polls to the three North-Eastern states with Karnataka to follow in May.

The Budget session of Parliament is scheduled to commence just under two weeks, giving Congress and the ruling alliance all the bragging rights on terrorism.
The forthcoming Parliament session is also significant as the BJP said it would target Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde for his comments last month that the saffron party and RSS are spreading Hindu terrorism.

Other political and administrative decisions such as Rahul Gandhi’s elevation to No 2 position in Congress and the ordinance on sex crime are seen as indications that Congress is preparing for the polls.

Guru hanging also comes after the government was in the spot for initially mishandling the brutal gang-rape of the 23-year-old girl in Delhi and its absolute lack of foresight and authority.

The BJP, which had raised government’s reluctance to hang Guru in two previous elections after Supreme Court handing death sentence to him in 2005, may find no ammunition to get at the government. With the two executions, the opposition cannot accuse the government for being soft on terrorism.  The secrecy that surrounded Kasab’s hanging became a lesson on how the government should handle execution of Guru, who, unlike Kasab, is an Indian national.

The alacrity showed by the government in deciding on Guru was also matched by its decision to face any possible law and order situation in the vexed Jammu and Kashmir.

Politically, it came just days after BJP leader and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi stormed the capital and made a politically loaded speech at a city college. Undoubtedly, the Centre has again flummoxed the Opposition besides its own party and UPA partners with the Guru decision. The complete secrecy displayed by the authorities concerned –like the Kasab issue - was seen as a deft handling of what was deemed a sensitive issue.

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