Shinde scores with hangings, signals firmness
New Delhi, Feb 9 : Sushilkumar Shinde's nearly six months in office as the union home minister have seen hangings of two major terror convicts - Ajmal Amir Kasab and Afzal Guru - depicting a sense of determination of the UPA government to deal with terrorism cases and signalling his firmness on the issue, say officials and analysts.
The two hangings, carried out with procedural secrecy, came about within a gap of merely two-and-half months.
Official sources said Shinde is keen to give an impression of decisiveness in his ministry.
"The decision on Afzal Guru would have come earlier but the minister was busy in dealing with the fallout of the gang-rape case in Delhi that led to a nationwide outrage," an official told IANS.
Shinde, in his zest for quick decisions, had also announced a date for a decision on the contentious issue of creating separate state of Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh. However, he could not stick to the timeline of one month announced in December.
The decisions on hanging of the two major convicts have come in the first year of Pranab Mukherjee's presidency. Both Mukherjee and Shinde assumed their new roles within a week of each other. While Mukherjee was sworn-in president July 25, Shinde assumed office Aug 1 last year.
The two hangings have also come about ahead of parliament sessions.
Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving Pakistani gunman involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was hanged November 21, a day before winter session opened.
Hanging of Afzal Guru, convicted for attack on Parliament House in 2001, came nearly 10 days before the start of the budget session Feb 21.
The hanging of two terror convicts is likely to help the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government counter Bharatiya Janata Party's aggressive pitch on the issue of national security.
However, it is unlikely to get Shinde off the main opposition party's radar for his comments on "saffron terrorism" and "Hindu terrorism" made at the Congress Chintan Shivir last month.
The BJP has announced it will boycott public programmes of Shinde and not respond to any communication from him as Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha.
The party has also announced that it will protest outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence Feb 20, a day before the start of the budget session of parliament, to press for an apology from Shinde.
Political analyst Aswini K. Ray said the hanging of terror case convicts has made the government's determination clear and taken away a key issue of the BJP. Ray, a former professor at the high-profile Jawaharlal Nehru University, said it had also helped convey decisiveness on the part of Shinde and Mukherjee.
"It seems so. By coincidence or by design, the new president was involved in quick decisions," Ray said.
He said though the decision on Afzal Guru was delayed, it could work to advantage of the Congress electorally. "The BJP will not be able to say that government is in two minds. The government has shown it has single track mind," Ray said.
He said the timing of Afzal Guru's hanging could have been influenced by a desire on the part of the UPA to contain growing profile of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
"It is possible that it (hanging) is pre-emptive action against Modi." he added.