India nails its own Laden: The power centre gets a breather

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The execution of Ajmal Kasab was quite surprising by the Indian standards. After moving like a tortoise for nearly four long years, the country's justice system suddenly became a rabbit and authorities concerned embarked on a secret but decisive mission to put a logical end to the episode. A happy mood followed as usual. The media expressed its happy mood, people burst crackers, a right-wing political group said it was a perfect farewell to a hardline leader who just passed away while the Opposition sang to the tune of the government. A perfectly happy script.

But was this execution really a spontaneous reaction of anger or revenge against the perpetrators of terror? Or was there a carefully thought-out plan behind Kasab's termination by those in powers so that a happy ending befits an agonising tale otherwise.

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Kasab's termination is a very crucial move made by the Congress-ruled UPA government. The Manmohan Singh government has been tainted to the core by endless numbers of scams during its second stint in power. The government has been reduced to a minority after a key ally withdrew from the ruling alliance and it is struggling to get its economic agenda including the FDI proposal approved in face of hostility from both the allies and opposition.

The anti-incumbency mood is strong and with a series of crucial assembly polls due to take place over the next one year before the all-important Lok Sabha polls scheduled for 2014, the UPA's political minds thought out the masterstroke well. Kasab's death will give some breathing ground to the UPA, which is very much apprehensive about the probable uproar in the parliamentary session starting tomorrow orchestrated by allies and opposition alike.

Kasab's execution will undoubtedly give a satisfaction to those who had lost their near and dear ones in the dreadful terror attack in Mumbai on the fateful day in 2008. Questions like whether capital punishment is supportable or whether the Indian establishment had abided by law in carrying out the entire execution process will not appeal to the emotional souls. But these are questions that the Indian leadership can not overlook. Here are some observations:

President Pranab Mukherjee played a great ally to his former party

Did President Pranab Mukherjee act as a saviour of the UPA government? The possibility can not discarded by any means. Mukherjee had been an asset of the Congress for several years and since the top office of the President in this country has also been politicised, chances of Raisina Hills alienating with the establishment can not be ruled out. As sources in Pakistan have asked, why did the Indian President jump the queue?

There are other candidates waiting to be hanged but Kasab easily overtook them to reach the gallows first. Why didn't successive Indian Presidents approve the death orders of Afzal Guru, convicted in the terror attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001; Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan --- the three men involved in Rajiv Gandhi assassination of 1991 or Balwant Singh Rajoana, the convicted in the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh?

Mukherjee neither took an interest in clearing the backlog first. The issue of the death penalty in India has currently attracted a lot of debate but President Mukherjee's quick rejection of Kasab's mercy plea and the speed with which the Indian state backed it up suggests that the President was not ready to miss a chance to favour his former party.

Kasab was a softer target compared to others awaiting capital punishment

The President's task was made easier by the fact that Kasab was a Pakistani and also a mere pawn in the much complex network of terrorism. The difference between Kasab and those other convicts is simply that the former was a problem who could be easily externalised and eliminated. The cases of Afzal, the three assassins or Rajoana are much complicated for the state to resolve for they are part of India's domestic political games. While Kashmir is a bottleneck, no Indian government dares to touch, political compulsions in Tamil and Punjabi politics make it difficult to settle the Rajiv case convicts and Rajoana.

Terminating Kasab will brighten the UPA government's resolve in fighting terrorism. Did the Manmohan Singh government take a leaf out of President Obama's magnificent achievement in terminating Osama bin Laden, a factor that played an undeniable role behind his re-election this year?

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