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Doubletalk on terrorism

By Neena Vyas (May 16, 2008, The Hindu) 

The Bharatiya Janata Party has got caught up in its double talk on terrorism. For the last four years, the theory articulated by its top leadership was that terrorists were striking in Congress-ruled States because they know that the party was "soft on terror." Why were terror strikes taking place in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, BJP leaders asked. But on Thursday there was no answer from the BJP to the question why terror struck Rajasthan. Party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad’s response was the "Centre has failed in [sharing with the State government] credible information gathered by its agencies [like the Intelligence Bureau]."

Reporters reminded Mr. Prasad that during the Gujarat Assembly election campaign, one refrain by the BJP was that terrorists were afraid of Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s "tough" administration and that explained why after the Akshardham temple episode, there was no terror strike in the State. Mr. Prasad had no explanation. He defended Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s lament about the Congress president’s visit to Jaipur saying, "she has not prevented Ms. [Sonia] Gandhi from going to Rajasthan [she was there on Thursday]."

Asked why L.K. Advani rushed to Mumbai after the serial blasts in local trains, Mr. Prasad said that since he was the "Leader of the Opposition" and not in power, it was natural for him to go, and nobody could have expected him to bring any relief to the families of victims. This was in the context of Ms. Raje’s remark that Ms. Gandhi should come only if she was going to announce some relief. When he was reminded that Ms. Gandhi was not Prime Minister, Mr. Prasad said, "all that Ms. Raje meant was that she [Ms. Gandhi] could use her influence with the Centre" to get President’s assent for the special law against organised crime that was passed by the State Assembly.

The BJP was also not willing to comment on Ms. Raje’s reported statement that she would not allow Rajasthan to become Gujarat. The clear implication was that she would not allow Tuesday’s terrorist attack to be used as an excuse for encouraging communal violence. When Mr. Prasad was asked for his comment, he simply said he did not know what she had said or in what context she said so. Mr. Prasad demanded that the Centre immediately convene a conference of Chief Ministers to discuss terrorism and find ways to cope with it. The BJP has also repeated its demand that the repealed law on terrorism - Prevention of Terrorism Act - be enacted again. His contention was that intercepts of telephone conversations, which often provided useful information and could help to pin down terrorists, were valid legal evidence under POTA, but not under any current law.

Although in 1995 the BJP was one with the Left in allowing the TADA - Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act - to lapse when P.V. Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister, Mr. Prasad now defended even that law, while he recognised that it was misused. "Every law is misused, even the Indian Penal Code. But no one would argue that we do away with the IPC," he said.  

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