After 26/11, BJP now politicising Pulwama

Maha CM and state’s home minister had quit after Bombay terror attacks. Will J&K governor quit or Modi take moral responsibility for not just intelligence failure but also for messing up Kashmir?

After 26/11, BJP now politicising Pulwama

Sujata Anandan

Public memory is proverbially short but it is worth recalling that Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister attempted to gain brownie points on 26/11 even as commandos were trying to flush the Taj and Trident hotels of terrorists in November, 2008. The general election was scheduled for April-May, 2009. The Delhi assembly was going to polls two days later and Modi arrived outside the Trident hotel to blame the Congress, then ruling over the state and the Centre, for the attack by Pakistan.

Vilasrao Deshmukh quit as chief minister of Maharashtra along with RR Patil of the NCP who was then the state’s home minister, (they did the right thing, morally) after the Bombay terror attacks, the Congress returned to power in Delhi the next week and in Maharashtra and the Centre the next year. But will the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, a BJP appointee, quit or Modi, already on his last legs as prime minister, take the moral responsibility for not just the intelligence failure but also for messing up Kashmir?

Although, the BJP always had the kind of elements who attempted to gain from the blood and death of others (India’s recent history from the 1990s onwards is a sorry tale of how it ushered in terrorism with the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya), contrast it also with itself in past decades. LK Advani who was campaigning in Ahmedabad in 1991 the night Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, immediately called off all his meetings for the next few days - even before the Election Commission announced the postponement of the second and third phases of Lok Sabha polls that year.

A local BJP functionary who saw only political advantage in the removal of a charismatic and powerful leader of the main political party in the country at the time (even the BJP was a bit player in 1991), came running over to Atal Behari Vajpayee, all smiles and asked, “Saab, hum ko is baar gaddi milegi, nàa?” Vajpayee withered this political vulture with a look and said in his inimitable slow measured style, “Tum yahan gaddi ke sapne dekh rahe ho aur hum isi chinta mein doobe ja rahe hain ki kahin hamein vanvaas na lena pade!” Vajpayee had reckoned that all that the BJP was talking about then was Hindu-Muslim, Mandir-Masjid and did not have a single socially relevant issue like Roti, Kapda aur Makaan or Bijli-Sadak-Paani in its manifesto.

The assassination of a former prime minister had an emotional appeal that went beyond any Hindu-Muslim rhetoric and could influence all but the hardcore voters of the BJP. The BJP does not come out smelling of roses from the Pulwama attack, not just because of its business as usual attitude in the past few days but also its past history of maladministration by its past government in view of the claim by the Jaish-e-Mohammad that they engineered the attack. People are recalling how the Vajpayee government had mishandled the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight from Nepal and was eventually compelled to release the dreaded terrorist Masood Azhar, the JeM leader, in return for passengers on board that flight.

Memories of then external affairs minister Jaswant Singh accompanying terrorists to Afghanistan have been revived and are being contrasted with the Congress-led government’s tough stance over 26/11 when current BJP-RSS favourite Pranab Mukherjee, then India’s external affairs minister, had put Pakistan in the international dog house over those attacks. Then prime minister Manmohan Singh – disparaged as weak by Modi and the BJP - had, refused all talks with Pakistan.

(Excerpts from a column first published on

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