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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 18, April 20, 2013

Boston and Bengaluru, Growing BJP-JD(U) Rift


Monday 22 April 2013, by SC

Two days after twin blasts near the finish line of the famous Boston marathon shattered the post-9/11 calm in the US killing three persons (including an eight-year-old) and injuring close to 170, 17 of them critically, the powerful explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED) outside the BJP headquarters in Bengaluru’s Malleswaram area at 10.28 am this morning has injured 16 people, among them eight policemen; the IED is reported to have been placed in or around the petrol tank of a motor-bike parked near a mobile police van that was completely charred. The explosion occured a day after intelligence reports had warned of a possible terror strike in Mumbai; and as we go to press, the Bengaluru blast is suspected to be the handiwork of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) terror outfit though a clearer picture would emerge only after a thorough probe. As for the Boston terror attack, details of who caused it and why, whether a terrorist organisation, foreign or domestic, was behind it or if it was the act of an insane individual have still to be unearthed.

The Boston bombing brings to mind numerous terror attacks India has experienced in recent times—notably in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune. But as The Indian Express has aptly noted,

The aftermath of the Boston bombing... was remarkably different from anything we are used to. The emergency response apparatus snapped into action. Uniformed personnel ran through the area, looking for those hurt, closing off the site for investigation. Medical crews went through the crowd to triage the wounded, attend to the most seriously hurt and take them to trauma centres. The Police Department and City Council coordinated their actions. Media advisories were given, complete with parking directions, and citizens were told how they could assist the investigation. The official response was measured—it did not speculate in an information vacuum, while assuring citizens that answers would be found.

The daily also underscored the source of the difference between what happened in Boston following the attack and the aftermath of terror strikes in this country. “Practice” was the key word and hence the Boston response to the terror offensive was so effective. “This attack,” the publication explained, “was a disaster drill that had become real, and the police knew what to do. In comparison, though India is more frequently attacked, each incident catches our system unawares, every lesson has to be learned all over again...”

The question therefore is simple: can we not change our policy of tackling such an emergency situation whenever and wherever terror strikes? The Bengaluru incident has heightened the necessity to address this issue at the earliest.

Meanwhile politics has come to the fore in the Opposition camp in particular with the united character of the NDA, that remained intact despite the communal carnage in Gujarat eleven years ago, coming under severe strain. It is easy to blame Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, perhaps the tallest figure in the JD(U) by dint of his popularity in Bihar, for this new development as his public statements during the party’s National Executive meet in New Delhi (that saw the re-election of Sharad Yadav as the party chief for the third time) left none in doubt as to who was the target of his observations: he did not want any person like Narendra Modi, the Gujarat CM, to be named as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 polls. Of course, he did not mention Modi by name but by his reference to former PM A.B. Vajpayee, Nitish clearly pointed to the inclusive politics of the BJP stalwart that Modi singularly lacked. Actually it is Modi who, by thrusting himself on the national stage as the possible alternative to Dr Manmohan Singh in a prospective NDA coalition government at the Centre, has played the divisive role, not Nitish; for he (Modi) has the potentiality of throwing a spanner in the work of widening the alliance. Even a simple apology from him for the 2002 happenings in Gujarat—accepting moral responsi-bility as the head of the State Government at that time for those untoward and horrendous incidents—would have been sufficient to assuage the hurt feelings of the minorities and secular-minded people. But he did not even venture to do so. Why? Because he too is a victim of vote-bank politics—he feared that in such an event the arch communal anti-Muslim hardline Hindus, his supporters in Gujarat, would desert him. Such a person would be a liability, not an asset in a parliamentary democracy even if he is the best administrator and organiser the party can boast of. Thus Nitish was absolutely right when he spoke of projecting someone as the prime ministerial candidate who practises inclusive politics and is respectful of India’s diversity. Modi obviously cannot qualify before such a criteria.

The coming days will show how the NDA leadership is able to handle the growing rift in the coalition essentially linked to the issue of secularism and protection and safeguard of minority interests.

April 17 S.C.

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