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Sunday, May 12, 2019

1984 riots issue revived, Cong wary


1984 riots issue revived, Cong wary

Ruchika M Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 11

The issue of 1984 anti-Sikh riots, one of the most emotive issues in Punjab, has once again came to the fore ahead of the elections, thanks to a callous statement by Congress leader Sam Pitroda. The remark could not have come at a more opportune time for the SAD-BJP.

The stage was, however, set to make this an election issue by the alliance partners earlier this year, although its foundation was laid four years ago, when the BJP-led NDA government had formed an SIT to probe riot cases.

Though it was initially meant to woo the Sikh voters in Delhi (as it was formed just before the Delhi Assembly elections), it is only after two men were sentenced by a Delhi court in the case in November last year and the subsequent conviction of Sajjan Kumar in December, that the saffron party and its ally tried to cash in on the Sikh sentiments against the Congress.

The alliance was not able to use the issue successfully till now. Their effort to give ticket to Jagdish Kaur, a key witness in the case that saw Sajjan Kumar being held guilty, too did not materialise.

The SAD had tried to field her from Khadoor Sahib, but she had reportedly refused because of her old age and failing health. While this plan fizzled out, the Congress narrative against the alliance for trying to save those guilty of sacrilege grew only shriller.

But just one week for the election in the state and the political narrative has been changed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his first election rally in Punjab by using this one statement of a Congress leader believed to be close to the Gandhi family. “Jo hua so hua” (what he said about the riots) statement by Pitroda has queered the pitch for the Congress, which is now struggling hard to wriggle out, while SAD-BJP leaders are using it as the main arsenal against the Congress. From a position of offence, the Congress has been put on the defensive.

Yesterday, CM Capt Amarinder Singh was the first to react, saying it was shocking. He said it (riots) was a big tragedy and justice had yet not been meted out to the victims.

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