Ajmal Kasab has been hanged. The memory of 26/11 is etched in our minds by the live television coverage of the horror. We watched innocent men and women murdered in cold blood by the ISI-trained commandos, and justice has been partially delivered to the last-surviving member of the pack of murderers. I use the word ‘partial’ as those who planned and directed the operation still live in Pakistan. Retribution will visit them in one form or the other in the future.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has explained the ‘timeline’ and should be complimented for a job well done. I think we should seriously consider an alternative strategy to deal with ‘sleeper units’ in the country.
The US sent drones and commando squads to terminate Osama bin Laden, and Pakistan—very much a terror state—could do little in retaliation. Sad, but they suffer as a terror state, and this is apparent as they interact at all levels with the global community while suffering as a nation for years. We have acted with restraint and maturity and within our limitations, and while some may see this as a weakness, it has been our strength. We have to function within our limitations but till justice is rendered for 26/11, Pakistan will continue to be treated with suspicion. No surprise then that prime minister-in-waiting Imran Khan was taken off a plane in Canada for interrogation on his links with terrorists.
There will be pressure to execute the death penalty in many other cases. We are well aware of the pressure being exerted by regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. We have a great deal of political excitement as Mamata Banerjee threatened a no-confidence motion; I wonder if this showed her strength or weakness. The Left will be delighted by her irrational political assessment and is highly unlikely to support the TMC in any political adventure at the Centre. Mamata has 19 MPs, and while this was a very big number in UPA II, it is not as big once she is in the Opposition, where she cannot dictate the agenda. This is the reality of life and Mamata should have realised this at the time of the selection of the president and again when she broke her alliance with the Congress.
Coalition formations have several moving parts in a complex power structure. Secular and non-secular factions have a direct impact on votes; we have seen this is 2004 and 2009. The chances are that 2014 may not be very different, and I wonder if after three decades of coalition rule, are we going to persist with this form of confusion or will we see some signs of a return to majority rule?
With the sole exception of the AIADMK, the regional parties are showing signs of fatigue. Look around: Uttar Pradesh with its 80 seats is becoming a battle between the SP and BSP; West Bengal with 42 seats has multiple conflicts at all levels between the TMC and Left; in Bihar, the JD(U) is feeling BJP pressure, and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav is drawing big crowds. Karnataka is in a mess, and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is coming under pressure from the Congress for the first time as well as several new local parties. We see great weakness all around us. Look further into Maharashtra with 48 seats or Andhra with 42 seats: Do you see a clear winner?
The Winter Session of Parliament will be stormy. Let us not talk of the UPA or NDA, but look at the Congress and BJP, and the likely formation between the Left and SP. We could see the formation of a ‘secular’ front, and while the Congress and BJP may win 130-140 seats each, the ‘secular’ front could have 100 seats. We could have a fourth group of ‘floaters’ who could extend support to the side with the greater numbers. The final decision, as always, is for the aam aadmi to make. The voting public will be a few steps ahead of all of us and will have a surprise in store for all parties.
Nehru is a former Union minister