The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not such cat's whiskers in counter-terrorism as it projects itself to be.
2. That seems to be the conclusion of the voters in the elections to the State Assemblies of Delhi and Rajasthan, the results of which wereannounced in Delhi on December 8,2008. The Congress (I) has retained power in Delhi despite any public anger over its failure to prevent theterrorist strikes of September 13 and to have them investigated satisfactorily . The BJP has failed to retain power in Rajasthan, which alsosaw serial explosions in Jaipur in May.
3. If one excludes the terrorist strikes in Assam in October, the responsibility for which is not yet clearly established, there have been fivemajor terrorist strikes this year---three of them in the BJP ruled States of Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat and two in Cong (I) ruled Delhiand Maharashtra. These strikes clearly showed that the counter-terrorism machinery in the BJP-ruled States is as bad as it has been in theCongress (I) ruled States. Both parties are equally responsible for neglecting the important task of revamping the counter-terrorismapparatus.
4. Despite this, the BJP might have still got the support of the voters on the terrorism issue if it had placed before them a comprehensivealternate strategy for dealing with terrorism. Despite the strong rhetoric of the BJP on the terrorism issue, its campaign did not show that itunderstood the issue of terrorism any better than the Congress (I). The two showed themselves to be equally confused on the issue ofcounter-terrorism. If the BJP was good in rhetoric, the Congress (I) was good in giving sermons to the people on the issue of terrorism.Caught between the rhetoric of the BJP and the sermons of the Congress (I), the voters decided to keep aside the issue of terrorism andvote on the basis of other issues, which are very important for their day-to-day living.
5. Apart from advocating the restoration of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), the BJP has hardly come out with any new ideas on howit will deal with terrorism, which will be qualitatively different from the way the Congress (I) has been dealing with it.
6. The people are greatly concerned over terrorism----not merely in the urban areas. They want more energetic steps by the Government todeal with it. They are not satisfied with the way it has been dealt with by the BJP-ruled as well as the Congress (I)-ruled States. But theywant new ideas and signs of a clear determination to implement them. Rhetoric alone will not do.
7. There is a rhetoric fatigue on the issue of terrorism. This has come out clearly in the just announced State Assembly election results.(8-12-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )