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Feb 09, 2013 at 08:21pm IST

Afzal Guru hanging: Is Congress positioning itself for early polls?

New Delhi: The suddenness of the hanging of Afzal Guru, a decision which has kept the Congress confused for nearly seven years, shows that the party is ready to bite the bullet in more ways than one. It indicates not only an election mode within the Congress, but also an attempt to counter the campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.

The Congress had repeatedly deferred the decision on when and whether Afzal should be hanged, with an eye on its impact on the minority votebank, which has been systematically chipped away by the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (United) in two of the biggest political states. It is a reason why many believe Saturday's sudden and secret execution of Afzal indicates the Congress could be looking to position itself in an early election scenario, and queer the pitch for BJP's aggressive attacks on their politics.

Ironically, the hanging came just when the BJP sharpened its campaign against Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for his Hindu terror comment, even announcing his boycott.

A worried Congress watched the BJP renew the Hindutva agenda with vigour. Worried about a polarisation costing votes in impending polls, the Congress chose its favourite middle path, a bit of minority appeasement coated with a bit of moderate Hindutva, with a hope the hanging would scuttle BJP's plan of aggressive targeting of the Congress during the budget session.

Many believe that the development could be an indicator of early polls too, specially as it comes with more planned moves like fast tracking more economic reforms and preparations for a post-Karnataka, Delhi, Rajasthan poll results strategy.

The other planned moves in this regard were reaching out to new allies like the JD(U) after polls and stressing inclusive politics by including minority and Hindu votebanks. Also, it came amidst attempts for passage of Lokpal Bill, food security and land acquisition bills, and decision on Telangana.