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Even as the Tamil Nadu BJP gave the predictable communal colour to the Deepavali-eve car bomb blast in Coimbatore, and geared up to cash in on the situation, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has taken the wind out of the saffron opposition by acceding to its demand for a National Investigation Agency (NIA) investigation into the incident.
The swift move by the Chief Minister, who said the investigation could be handled by the central agency due to the possible international and inter-State dimensions of those involved, has taken the BJP by surprise, which was left with little option but to welcome the move.
Shadow of 1998
The serial bomb blasts in the same city in 1998 before the visit of then Home Minister L.K. Advani had boosted the electoral prospects of the BJP alliance in the ensuing General elections and resulted in the party’s growth in the region. However, the BJP cannot expect to cash in on last week’s blast which cannot be compared to the 12 bomb attacks in 11 places on February 14, 1998, that killed 58 people and injured 200 within a radius of 12 kilometres during the election campaign.
For several days after the explosion, the textile city wore a deserted look with all business establishments, shops and roadside stalls remaining closed. It had widespread ramifications throughout Tamil Nadu as people had never witnessed such devastating terrorist attacks in the State. The horrific incident cast a shadow over the city and people went to the polling booths with dreadful memories, resulting in major gains for the BJP alliance.
The swift move by the Chief Minister, who said the investigation could be handled by the central agency due to the possible international and inter-State dimensions of those involved, has taken the BJP by surprise, which was left with little option but to welcome the move
This time, no one except the car driver was killed in the blast as it occurred during the early hours at an isolated place. Though the BJP tried to paint the incident as a major break down of law and order, it did not have any impact on Deepavali celebrations as indicated by the record TASMAC and firecracker sales! As the opposition upped the ante, the Chief Minister was quick to announce his recommendation for an NIA probe.
AIADMK shifts focus
However, the car blast shifted the spotlight away from the damaging reports of the Arumughaswamy Commission and Aruna Jagadeesan Commission. Rival AIADMK leaders Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam, who had chosen to remain silent on the reports of negligence and unprovoked violence, eagerly picked on the Coimbatore incident to target the DMK government.
Both leaders charged the ruling DMK government with failing to protect law and order. Palaniswami said, “Tamil Nadu remained a peaceful haven during the AIADMK rule, but whenever DMK comes to power, bomb blasts occur in the State.” Due to political interference, police were forced to file cases against the opposition parties instead of focusing on maintaining law and order, he alleged, accusing the government of vendetta politics. Panneerselvam in his statement, said law and order had deteriorated in the State and recalled the 1998 Coimbatore bomb blast.
Annamalai who has faced criticism for defending then CM Palaniswami’s actions during police firing on anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi, also found fault with the police investigation into the Deepavali-eve blast, charging the government with concealing the truth about the incident
However, Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai added communal colour to the car blast saying that 60 percent of DSPs in Tamil Nadu intelligence wing belong to a particular religion and they are acting like NGO’s and missionaries. Even after the Chief Minister’s decision to hand over the investigation to the NIA, he demanded revamping of the State intelligence.
Annamalai who has faced criticism for defending then CM Palaniswami’s actions during police firing on anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi, also found fault with the police investigation into the Deepavali-eve blast, charging the government with concealing the truth about the incident.
His comments drew a strong counter from CPI(M) state secretary K. Balakrishnan who accused the BJP of trying to exploit the situation for political gains. The CPI(M) leader said the BJP’s hate campaign had triggered communal clashes in Tamil Nadu, giving rise to communal activities by a few Islam groups and individuals.
However, not all welcomed Mr. Stalin’s decision to rope in the NIA. Leader of Naam Thamizar Katchi P Seeman questioned how the Tamil Nadu government had concluded that there was international involvement in the blast without completing the investigation.
“Did Stalin lose faith in his police department or lacked the confidence to complete the investigation? Has he accepted the BJP’s allegation of adding communal colour to the entire police force? Is the Chief Minister evading his responsibility,” Seeman said and added that allowing an NIA investigation would go against State autonomy and give an opportunity for the BJP to harass innocent Muslims.
However, as the war of words over the car blast seems to have quietened down after the decision to recommend an NIA probe by the CM.
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