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Shinde's faux pas on Kasab's hanging draws ire

November 22, 2012 21:43 IST

It seems Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has annoyed both his bosses in the Congress and the government by his over-the top statement that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were not aware of the secret operation of Ajmal Kasab's hanging and came to know about it only through television.

There is a great deal of amazement and anger at Shinde's comments that an operation of this magnitude could have been conceptualised, organised and executed without the knowledge and approval of the Big Two.

Congress leaders in both the party and the government say this is Shinde's first big faux pas and makes the prime minister look like a puppet and not a commander. 

His comment is particularly interesting when it is juxtaposed with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's comment that the decision was taken in a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security which is headed by the prime minister.

The fact that India informed Pakistan the day before of the hanging of Kasab, and even External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, India's high commissioner and deputy commissioner to Pakistan were in the loop, makes the suggestion laughable that everyone in the government knew except the prime minister.

A senior Congress leader gave the argument that it is like United States President Barack Obama not being aware of the strike and operation against Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Sections in the government feel that internationally it will send the wrong signal that India's prime minister is not a leader who takes decisions and would bring down the image and perception.

As far as the Congress is concerned, senior leaders say that the party is always looking for ways and means to strengthen the leadership and image of the Congress preident. The word that has been put out by senior leaders is that the issue was discussed at the highest level between the prime minister and the Congress president, as well as with the President.

Interestingly this is not the only faux pas by Shinde when it came to the Kasab issue. On October 16, President Pranab Mukherjee received the Kasab file from the Union home ministry. He was due to go to West Bengal for the Durga Puja celebrations. But when he went through the file, he discovered that Home Minister Shinde, who was earlier a sub inspector in Maharashtra police, had made no noting on the file on what needed to be done regarding Kasab's mercy petition.

According to the Indian system, the home minister advises the president on what decisions needs to be signed in, but Shinde, new to his job, forgot to make a noting on the file.

Promptly President Mukherjee returned the file, asking Shinde to put his noting on the file. After the completed file came back, and after Pranabda returned from Bengal, he called in legal experts for their opinion and after due consultations decided to reject the petition.

While there were other cases in line before Kasab, the government had sent the file of Kasab to the President so that it became the priority and the President did not need to go by the actual order of precedence of those who had filed mercy petitions.

President Mukherjee signed on November 5 rejecting Kasab's mercy plea and clearing the decks for the hanging of the Pakistani terrorist, a decision taken at the highest level in the government.

The entire matter was kept a closely guarded secret.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi