Are we overreacting to Shinde's absence in Patna after blasts?

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Bangalore, Oct 29: Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is not the best of the office-holders, according to the Indian media and the opposition of the UPA.

He has caught the headlines time and again for the wrong reasons, either by making a controversial statement on Hindu terror or by attending a Bollywood party after serial blasts rip through a state capital.

Shinde's latest act of posing with actor Kangana Ranaut in Mumbai when Bihar was bloodied by a series of low-intensity blasts has invited wide criticism. Now, the question is: Is Shinde being criticised for impropriety or is the anger a reflection of a strng anti-incumbency mood that is blowing across the nation at the moment?

The Cong will do better not by counter-reacting too much

One thinks it is more the second factor.The Union home minister, even though he is a state official, can't be expected to stand on the site of terror attacks.A minister doesn't just carry out his official duties round the clock.

He also has other commitments and if Shinde was attending some programme in his home state on a Sunday, there was no fault in what he was doing, even if there were bomb attacks. By that logic, the prime minister should have rushed to the spot before anybody else. By overreacting to

Shinde's absence in Patna, we are venting a misdirected ire. A few days ago, he visited the Pakistan border and spoke to the jawans to boost them. So it is not that the home minister is doing nothing but we can't turn him into a goalkeeper doing a 'thankless job' every time.

On October 27, the Centre did a commendable job in rushing investigating teams to Patna soon after the blasts took place ahead of a mega rally by the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also called up Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and spoke to him on the issue. If the anti-terror response is swift enough, there is no point on regretting whether the Union home minister was present on the spot in person or not.

However, having said that, the Congress should not overdo to shield Shinde from criticism. That won't help.

On Monday, foreign minister Salman Khurshid said the home minister has a life beyond Patna. He counter-attacked Modi for going ahead with his speech and not speaking anything on the blasts. Such remarks will only worsen the situation more. Had Modi spoken anything on the issue at the rally, the Congress would have found a great opportunity to sharpen the political blame game and that would have helped Shinde escape the limelight.

Th hyper-reactive media in India has rattled the political class so much so that the only target now is to somehow turn the focus on the opposition to get a temporary escape route.

This tendency has only resulted in witch-hunting and counter-allegations while the real issues of how to counter terrorism through a proper coordination and cooperation have gone lost. We need to learn the language of silence when it matters.

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