airs & heirs
pranab clears the air
Rashtrapati Pranab Mukherjee after clearing the file on Ajmal Kasab now has the file on Afzal Guru on his study table. Recently, there was a recital by Hari Prasad Chaurasia in Rashtrapati Bhawan and one of the guests was Farooq Abdullah, the National Conference leader. Just before the recital ended, Abdullah quietly slipped away and soon after Pranab Mukherjee too left in a bit of a hurry. The buzz is that the President was in consultation with Abdullah over the repercussions of hanging Afzal Guru, particularly in Kashmir, as there are apprehensions that it may lead to widespread protests and violence. Mukherjee, who is considered to be somewhat of a hardliner when it comes to Pakistan and terrorism, was prompt as far as his due diligence is concerned and this is exactly what he did when the file on Kasab was sent to him on October 16. The Home Minister in his excitement forgot to give his notings on the file, something that the Government has to do in such cases, following which the President promptly sent the file back. When the file was re-submitted, Pranab Mukherjee consulted legal experts before he rejected the mercy petition of Kasab. Interestingly, soon after signing the file on November 5, he had a screening of a Bengali film in Rashtrapati Bhawan. The film showed how terrorists and others who are in jail were being brought back into the mainstream, highlighting a reformist approach. Pranabda’s fulsome and wholesome praise for the film confused those who knew him for his tough stance on Pakistan. But when it later came to light that the President had signed the file and Kasab’s hanging happened in complete and utter secrecy, there was a sigh of relief amongst Pranabda’s supporters that despite Rashtrapati Bhawan and his changed role, nothing much had changed as far as he was concerned!!