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'First among game changers for 2014 elections'

Last updated on: November 21, 2012 16:32 IST

'First among game changers for 2014 elections'

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Priyanka in New Delhi

Kasab's execution is part of the government's effort to demonstrate how it will deal with issues of national security strongly, political journalist Rasheed Kidwai tells Priyanka.

The sudden execution of Ajmal Kasab on Wednesday morning is being viewed as a game changer for the United Progressive Alliance government, which has been plagued by low credibility for a while.

Rasheed Kidwai, associate editor, The Telegraph, who has studied the Congress party in great detail in the course of writing the books 24, Akbar Road and Sonia: A Biography, tells Rediff.com's Priyanka why it is advantage UPA now.

How will the Kasab hanging affect the Congress party and UPA government?

With this, the Congress seems to be trying to beat the Bharatiya Janata Party in what is considered the latter's strong point. This is part of a combined effort of the UPA government and the Congress to show that they know how to deal with issues of national security strongly instead of indulging in rhetoric.

It can also be said that the international and diplomatic efforts post-26/11 have been successful to the extent of making Pakistan look guilty. The government of Pakistan started cooperating when it offered to share intelligence inputs.

It may not have been in accordance with our expectations, but Pakistan, for once, started advocating that there is something wrong and it needs to be corrected.

Until this time, they were in absolute denial.

Compare this with the attack on Parliament during the National Democratic Alliance rule, when the army was asked to move in and retaliate, eyeball to eyeball. It was an exercise in futility.

So, the UPA stands to gain on various fronts. The trial was conducted in a fair and transparent manner. Kasab was given a counsel and legal guidance, which was much better than what Afzal Guru could plead for.

The UPA has shown that it means action when it comes to national security, and does not just make it an emotional issue.

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Image: 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab was hanged at Pune's Yerawada prison on Wednesday


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'Thackeray funeral, the BJP, Gujarat polls: Congress, UPA kept many things in mind'

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The UPA seems to have carefully chosen the timing of the execution. What's your take?

The winter session of Parliament is about to begin. Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail is becoming a huge issue. Also, the Gujarat elections are around the corner.

The UPA kept many things in mind.

The effect of the funeral procession of the late Balasaheb Thackeray -- it didn't want to take this decision at a time when it could get clouded by the funeral.

They wanted to deprive the BJP of the points the main Opposition party most strongly advocates.

They (the Congress and UPA government) had the Gujarat polls in mind. If one looks closely at (Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra) Modi's campaign, one will find that he always talks about national issues, and how the country is a soft target. There is no vibrant Congress presence in the state.

Unlike the polls in Himachal Pradesh, which had two equals fighting it out, the Congress in Gujarat does not even have a strong chief ministerial candidate. Modi has been talking about it. It was his political plank, and the UPA has shown it can take a strong step.

Modi is already talking about Afzal Guru now.

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Image: Uddhav Thackeray's son Aditya, right, looks on as Bal Thackeray's funeral procession passes through Mumbai on Sunday
Photographs: Savera R Someshwar/Rediff.com
Tags: UPA , BJP , Congress , Modi

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'It looks like advantage UPA now'

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Why was it done in a very secretive manner?

It was a political call. A decision like this requires political clearance, right from the top leadership.

The President of India had rejected his clemency plea, and, as per law, he could have been executed on any day after that. But when such a thing comes out in the open, there is a possibility of pressure from human rights groups, international pressure groups.

The UPA wanted to say it can deal with it effectively and has now given the issue some closure.

Do you think this is a game-changer for the Congress and UPA? How does the BJP stand now?

This move is just a part of its larger strategy for the 2014 elections, and there are many benefits for the UPA.

This is just the first among the game-changers in the run for 2014 elections.

There is the food security bill coming up in Parliament.

Adhaar will be brought into action in 18 districts from January 1, and cash transfers will begin April onwards.

When a government is badly hit and low on credibility -- like the current UPA government, or the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1989, or the Narasimha Rao government in 1996 -- the main Opposition party gains.

But this time around, BJP President (Nitin) Gadkari's position is comparable to what the one-time Congress president Sitaram Kesri, who did not enjoy the confidence of his own party workers, experienced.

Nobody knows what will happen in the Gujarat polls. But it looks like advantage UPA now.


Image: Terrorists Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus during the 26/11 attacks


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