x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

After the carnage, politicians circle

The BJP's lambasting of the government for its "complete failure" in regard to the Mumbai attacks has led to accusations that the Hindu nationalists are trying to extract political mileage from the situation.

CALCUTTA // The Bharatiya Janta Party's lambasting of the government for its "complete failure" in regard to the Mumbai attacks has led to accusations by the ruling Congress Party and many commentators that the Hindu nationalists are trying to extract political mileage from the situation. According to sources inside the BJP, it is gearing up to launch an aggressive campaign against "jihadi attacks on India" and Congress's failure to keep jihadis out of its territory. Congress heads both India's federal ruling alliance and the local government in Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital. Lal Krishna Advani, a former deputy prime minister and a senior BJP leader, said intelligence agencies' energies and attention had been completely "diverted to nail so-called Hindu terror, which evidently enabled" the plot of the Mumbai attackers to go undetected. Despite "pussyfooting" by the ruling federal coalition of the United Progressive Alliance and Congress Party on the issue of terrorism and its "politically motivated refusal to arm the security agencies with tough terror laws, we shall overcome the terrorist challenge in the end", Mr Advani said. BJP leaders said Muslims are the perpetrators behind most terrorist attacks in India and to hold on to the "Muslim vote bank" in the country, Congress does not want to impose tougher antiterrorism laws. Describing the address of the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, after the attacks as "disappointing", Narendra Modi, the BJP leader, charged that the government had -ignored his repeated warnings on sea routes being used by terrorists to attack India. However, Rajeev Shukla, a Congress member of parliament, warned that this was not the time for scoring political points. "After the 9/11 attack, the entire US stood united against terrorism, setting aside their political differences, without anyone criticising another. And terrorism was defeated there," he said. "We too need to be united in India the same way if we want to defeat terrorism in India." BJP leaders had criticised the prime minister for seeking help from Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in the investigation of the attacks. "Before calling the ISI chief, we must remember that the trail of terror attacks in India in almost all cases has led to the doors of the ISI," said Ravi Shankar Prasad, a BJP member of parliament. In response, some members of Congress have charged the BJP with playing politics. Kapil Sibal, India's science and technology minister, accused the BJP leaders of using a "human tragedy for political opportunism". "Is it the time for a blame game? We stood with the government when Akshardham temple was attacked by terrorists," said Mr Sibal, referring to an attack in a temple in 2002 in BJP-ruled state of Gujarat when BJP was in federal power. "BJP's prime ministerial candidates Advani and Modi have made strange and unusual statements that lack not just maturity, but national commitment. Desire for position should not be above national interest." Manish Tewari, a Congress spokesman, accused Mr Advani of ignoring the prime minister's request to -accompany him to Mumbai after the attacks. "A joint visit by the prime minister and Mr Advani would have sent a strong signal of a united India against terrorism. But Mr Advani preferred to go to Mumbai along with Jaswant Singh [a fellow BJP parliamentarian] whose conduct at Kandahar is possibly responsible for what we are facing today," said Mr Tewari, referring to the release of three high-profile Pakistani militants from Indian jails and a payment of an undisclosed sum in ransom in 1999, agreeing to the demand of Islamist hijackers. All these accusations come as a backdrop to state elections. BJP leaders think the Mumbai attack should have helped BJP fare better in last week's state elections in New Delhi and could possibly boost the Hindu party's prospects in forthcoming national and state elections. An exit poll conducted by Star News and Nielsen India in New Delhi on Saturday forecast that Congress and BJP would hold an almost equal number of seats. Final election results will be announced on Dec 8. "We were on the back foot following the issue of Hindu terrorism, although it was fabricated propaganda by Congress. But the Mumbai attack has shifted the focus to this bigger issue of jihadi terrorism and we are definitely going to be benefited from the fallout of this attack," said a New Delhi-based BJP leader who did not want to be identified. "This attack has sent a terror wave across the country. Everyone wants security and they know how the BJP can strictly handle this issue with tougher laws and more power to the security forces? they will vote us to power." @Email:aziz@thenational.ae