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Why Sushilkumar Shinde must go

February 04, 2013 15:34 IST

The BJP is entirely justified in asking for Shinde’s resignation. Shinde too must realise that when the likes of Hafiz Saeed endorse his remarks, it is time to wrap his tail between his legs and slink away from the national scene failing which the Congress party must dump him if it retains even an iota of national pride, says Vivek Gumaste.

It was a naked display of political opportunism and chicanery; a deliberate, calculated play of deception that callously transgressed the limits of sovereignty in order to score brownie points on the domestic political front; a shameful episode wherein the tug of political gains trumped the sanctity of national interest; a sacrilegious misuse of the international stage to settle one’s petty political scores at the cost of dignity of nation.

From a man who dons the mantle of the home ministership of a large democratic nation reeling under the vicious onslaught of terrorism exported from a neighbouring country one expects a modicum of clinical acumen, a degree of discretion and above all a sense of responsibility. Alas, he exhibited none.

With his politically motivated baseless charge accusing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party, a former ruling party of running terrorist camps, Sushilkumar Shinde, the honorable Indian home minister has unequivocally re-emphasised the clichéd image of the ugly unscrupulous politician: one who places himself first, his party second and the nation last.

At the Congress Chintan Shivir in Jaipur held last month, Shinde alleged: "Training camps of both BJP and RSS are promoting Hindu terrorism. Whether it is Samjhauta blast or Mecca Masjid blast or Malegaon blast, they plant bombs and blame it on the minorities."

A home minister is an official national functionary, not a party apparatchik who has the license to indulge in political shenanigans that lack accountability. Investigations so far have failed to decipher any terror links to the RSS as the rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa reports: “Ironically despite all these names doing the rounds none of these cases have attained any sort of closure… It has been found that there are many elements who had turned rogue and decided to take to terror activities. However, there is nothing on record to show that the RSS as an organisation had provided space or funds to carry out such activities”

Second, if the home minister is privy to classified information he is duty bound to act on it as challenged by the newly appointed BJP President Rajnath Singh. The fact that he has not leaves the home minister on shaky ground. Either way he incriminates himself leaving himself no wiggle room.

More important than the domestic ramifications is the adverse impact of Shinde’s remarks on our relations with Pakistan. We have spent over a half a century assiduously highlighting the genuine differences that distinguish us from our rogue neighbour: our exemplary democracy, a sincere love for peace and an adherence to international norms -- so that the world would appreciate our view point in our war against the evil machinations of Pakistan.

With one senseless reckless statement, the home minister has nullified the efforts of all past Indian governments, both Congress and non-Congress, knocking us off from our well-deserved pedestal and thrusting us into the same sleazy quagmire that Pakistan inhabits. His statement has denigrated our democracy, obliterated our negotiating advantage and tarnished our international image.

Pakistan was quick to latch on to Shinde’s gaffe. Pakistani defence analyst Shireen Mazari, ignoring the obvious ludicrousness of her assertion, sanctimoniously averred that in contrast to India, Pakistan has yet to elect a party espousing religious extremism: “In India, the BJP was in power earlier and is a major contender in the next elections. As it has now been identified as being a direct trainer of saffron terrorism, imagine the threat to peace if the BJP comes to power. For all those western states who drum up fear about Muslim extremists taking control of Pakistan’s nuclear assets -- a total improbability -- they should look to the possible electoral success of the BJP in India, which would give saffron terrorists direct access to India’s nuclear arsenal, especially if Narendra Modi was to be India’s prime minister.” (Outlook, February 4, Bombs in our Houses).

If Shinde was angling to stop Modi in his tracks by seeking help from across the border, he could not have chosen a better target and a better co-conspirator, acting in the process like a modern day Jaichand who colluded with the enemy to vanquish the last indigenous king of Delhi, Prithiviraj Chauhan.

International policy wonks in search of the ultimate diplomatic faux pas need to look no further than India’s Samjhauta blast investigation to which Shinde alluded in his remark; it stands out as a diplomatic blunder par excellence. By highlighting a half-baked investigation which is yet to prove  the culpability of ‘Hindu terrorists’ and which was earlier thought to be the handiwork of Let, the current Indian government has shot itself in the foot; it has decisively erased our negotiating advantage.

Using the delay in the Samjhauta case as a counterfoil, Pakistan has sought to justify all its willful atrocities and drag its feet on the prosecution of the perpetrators of 26/11.

Additionally, Pakistan sees Shinde’s statement as a godsend to salvage its battered international image vis-à-vis India by painting India with the same brush. Former Pakistan foreign secretary Riaz Khokar even implored the UN Secretary General to take note: “The Congress party leadership, especially the home minister, should be congratulated for his statement regarding saffron terrorism. The international community, especially the US, should take note of his comments. The UN Secretary General should also place this statement before the Security Council.”

The crowning depravity of Shinde’s remark is to be found in its concurrence by Pakistan’s high priest of terror and 26/11 mastermind, Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder Hafiz Saeed who promptly used it to lambast India and declare his innocence.

The BJP is entirely justified in asking for Shinde’s resignation. Shinde too must realise that when the likes of Hafiz Saeed endorse his remarks, it is time to wrap his tail between his legs and slink away from the national scene failing which the Congress party must dump him if it retains even an iota of national pride.

Vivek Gumaste