Naveen S Garewal, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, September 25. With the row over clemency for Devinderpal Singh Bhullar hotting up, all major political parties in Punjab, where Assembly elections are due early next year, are using the issue to outscore each other.
The SAD has already pledged to table a resolution in the coming Assembly session seeking clemency for Bhullar, who is a on a death row.
However, its alliance partner, the BJP, has cleared its intentions of not supporting any such resolution. Unhappy with its ally, the SAD patron and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday said he would like to consult the Congress leadership on the clemency issue.
The Congress, on the other hand, does not wish to commit itself in “favour” or “against” capital punishment. Today, state Congress chief and former CM Amarinder Singh cleverly tried to wriggle out of the situation by saying that Badal’s move “is politically motivated” and the Congress will not bite the bait.
Bhullar is said to have masterminded a blast in Delhi in 1993 that was aimed at killing former All-India Youth Congress president Maninderjit Singh Bitta. Bitta had escaped unhurt, but several others had died in the explosion.
With Assembly poll in February, no political party wants to annoy any section of the society on Bhullar issue. Hence, a fine balancing act is at work. Badal has exerted pressure on its ally BJP by seeking the Congress’ help. The BJP’s plea is that it is against commuting of capital punishment in general. If the BJP supports the SAD on Bhullar’s mercy plea and opposes the mercy plea for Afzal Guru and others, it would be accused of double standards. However, if it does not go with the SAD, the rift between the alliances partners is bound to get widened. This is not something the BJP or the SAD would want.
Amarinder has made the Congress stand clear that it does not want any resolution in the Assembly as the matter is pending in the Supreme Court. Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, however, wants Bhullar hanged.
Apparently, taking cue from Tamil Nadu, where the Assembly passed a resolution seeking clemency for Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins and Jammu and Kashmir where the Assembly has admitted a private member’s resolution seeking clemency for the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, Badal also tried to adopt a similar course. He, however, knows well that an Assembly resolution holds no legal binding for anyone.
But now it will be very difficult for Badal to table such a resolution in the Assembly. It cannot afford to move a resolution, which would be opposed by its alliance partner. Worse, with the Congress also opposing it, it runs the risk of facing defeat on the floor of the house. Now Badal has limited options as he cannot take the risk of tabling a resolution that might get defeated, leading to a constitutional crisis. A government getting defeated on the floor of the House will automatically have to resign, a proposition Badal can ill-afford.
The Congress does not wish to commit itself in “favour” or “against” capital punishment. Punjab Congress chief and former CM Amarinder Singh on Sunday tried to wriggle out of the situation by saying that Badal’s move “is politically motivated” and the Congress will not bite the bait.