Why BJP will be happy with Chidambaram's soft stand on Afzal Guru

Former UPA minister P Chidambaram's remarks in an interview that the case of Afzal Guru, convicted and hanged in the 2001 Parliament attack, was perhaps not correctly decided and that there were very serious doubts about the extent of his involvement in the attack have caused an explosion in India's political circles.

[Why Chidambaram issues catchy statements every November]

Ministers of the ruling NDA hit back at Chidambaram with one top minister even saying nobody had the right to express such an opinion, creating dissatisfaction among people.


It is expected that the BJP would not take the former home minister's statements lightly, at least in  public. But somewhere inside, they would be feeling happy with Chidambaram's remarks.

What was the purpose of Chidambaram making such statements now? More than three years after the man's execution, something which has given birth to sharp debates and controversies, did the former finance minister get an inner call to give such an "honest opinion"?

Is Chidambaram making these remarks to remain relevant...

There could be two reasons for Chidambaram's sudden 'quest for the truth'. First, the man is trying to keep himself relevant in the national politics by making a routine attack on the opponents by siding with the JNU students. With age not on his side and uncertainty marking his party's future in the national politics, Chidambaram, who did not contest the last Lok Sabha elections, is often found making remarks that are often not consistent with the conditions of statecraft.

The leader, who may be is in a phase of semi-retirement, expresses his minds now as a revisionist of sort perhaps to battle a crisis of survival. Chidambaram also doesn't have the option to do something noteworthy in the politics of his own state of Tamil Nadu for neither his party is strong there nor he and his son share a smooth relation with the state leadership. Thus, he returns to make a mark in national politics by remarking as an idealist.

...or is he trying to rattle Congress's own minority vote-bank?

The second reason could be more serious. Is a veteran like Chidambaram eyeing to demean his own party's top leadership through these controversial remarks? It is often believed that Chidambaram had a difference with the top brass of the party though the man himself has ruled out that as a reason for not contesting the last general elections.

But going by the man's remarks that often create a controversy in the political circles, it might not be completely baseless. It will not hurt Chidambaram himself if he really thinks that Guru's case was not rightly handled and that he might have been victimised but can impact a struggling Congress's minority vote-bank ahead of the Assembly elections. And not to mention, the majority vote-bank will be left extremely disappointed. So either way, it will go against the Congress.

The former MP from Sivaganga has been heard making remarks in the past questioning former prime minister Manmohan Singh's handling of the 2G issue, the merit of the Rajiv Gandhi government's decision to ban 'The Satanic Verses' or that a non-Gandhi could lead the Congress someday (not in that order).

He had also opined that the AFSPA was "obnoxious" and he had failed as the home minister to amend the law because the defence ministry and the armed forces did not cooperate. Is there a picture when we join those dots?

If Guru was hanged in February 2013 to attract the majority votes to counter a rising Narendra Modi ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Chidambaram's remarks could do a similar disservice to the party now in terms of minority votes. Will the Gandhis taking these potentially harmful remarks lightly?

Chidambaram's opinion can go a long way in helping the regional parties strengthen their base in the minority vote-bank in the next set of elections at the expense of the grand old-party's loss of credibility. Narendra Modi will not be complaining about Chidambaram's thoughts even if his ministers are visibly upset.

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