Monday, December 8, 2008

COUNTER-TERRORISM: SIGNS OF RHETORIC FATIGUE

B.RAMAN

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: seventyone2@gmail.com )

6 comments:

Murali said...

Is it still too naive to hope that there are lots of Secular-minded hindus in India? This group would never have considered voting for BJP, if they had a credible alternative to the Congress. Is it possible that the the Sadhvi Pragnya episode - specifically the aspect of BJP's support for the perpetrators - could also have turned away this group from the BJP?

Certainly to many it would be a terrifying thought to even imagine a Talibanization (albeit the Hindu version) of India by the hawkish elements of BJP. If BJP were in power and it turned a blind eye, at best, to the Malegaon incident, or at worst actually abetted the incident, it would be tantamount to state-sponsored terrorism.

Do you think the BJP stand on this issue might actually hurt them rather than buy them votes?

Manan said...

I always read your essays in rediff, some are really good analysis but some lack the prospective. This one is example of later. Like most analyst, you have missed the point that this are state elections and most of the times they are seen as regional thing with regional problems. Most of the states, except gujarat or may be one or two more see themselves as a region instead of as a part of India in times of state election. So regional issues take precedence over national issues. The factor which worked in rajasthan was ani-icumbency, ppl voted coz they were fed up with the way BJP govn was working in rajasthan. Why do analyst miss this point...??? We have seen this most of the times in state elections in last decade but analysts never learn from this simple things and then they blame politicians for not learning from their past..... how ironic.

Mark my words, except gujarat you will never see national perspective in state election. So come LS elections and cong has difficult times ahead except that BJP keeps shooting its own foot...(BTW, if BJP just shuts its mouth, they will win elections easily....)

Rakesh Vanamali said...

I completely agree to your viewpoint that both BJP and the Congress need to strengthen counter terrorism measures in their respective states without taking pot-shots at each other on who is to be blamed for terrorist activities in the country!

Furthermore, statements of people such as N. Rane implicating the Congress in such activities is of bad taste particularly at a time when PAK's role has been established by both India and the United States!

But then, bureaucracy, endless red-tape and lack of coordination among agencies have eroded the ability of the government to preempt such attacks and contain them!

Good Post Sir! I am currently reading your book - The Kaoboys of R&AW. Very well written and very interesting I must say

Regards

Rakesh

Ray said...

Voters are no longer the yokels of yore.

Even those who are unlettered are aware of their environment and what is good for them.

Mere rhetoric is no longer acceptable. A plan of action is what they want and desire. Then and then alone will they cast their votes in anyone's favour.

Dr. D Bhide said...

I always read your blog and listen to your participation on TV w/ interests and respect for the experience of an expert rather than the chair pundits called "senior journalists". However, you may have come to some wrong conclusions here. I do agree thatRHETORIC FATIGUE may be setting in on COUNTER-TERRORISM as it did on J&K & Punjab issues in late 80s and 90s.

However, you know that local issues dominate more during state elections. Also, if you look at the # of seats won by BJP & Congress during these State elections, BJP has won more seats than has Congress. While Delhi certainly has a high profile, it is much smaller than MP. Same goes w/ Rajastahn. Since even Lok Sabha elections these days are the aggregate of local factors, the fact is BJP won more seats than Congress. Thus, the conclusions you drew about BJP's counter-terrorism rhetoric not being bought in to the common man does not seem valid at the macro level.

Incognito said...

Good assessment.
BJP has not been able to formulate substantiative plans to counter terrror.
Their tenure in 2000-04 was also not much different from Congress' tenure.

What is the solution when the national parties have no plans to counter terror ...?
and the media which should be highlighting issues of national interest is sold out.

Ultimately I guess the buck stops at the people in a democracy.
Its the people who should take responsibility to elect good people to power.

It is because the people elect crooks to power that the parties are willing to nominate crooks as their candidates and to pander to vote-bank politics - regional, religious, castist.

You the common man , who unfortunately is shown as helpless in R K Laxman's cartoons, IS ALONE RESPONSIBLE and powerful too.