New Delhi, Feb. 9: Narendra Modi tweeted "better late than never", hours after the news of Afzal Guru's hanging went viral.
His party, the BJP, picked up the cue and purveyed the same line later. A statement from Arun Jaitley, the Rajya Sabha Opposition leader, said: "Though belated, justice has been done."
The BJP had bayed for Afzal's blood shortly after Ajmal Kasab was hanged in November. If Afzal was not hanged, the party was planning to highlight in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls the "inaction" as evidence of the Congress's "penchant for presiding over a soft state".
Stumped by the silence and swiftness with which Afzal was hanged, the BJP tried to grandstand, claiming "public opinion had compelled the government to act and enforce the law".
"For reasons which the government has been unable to explain, the execution was delayed. But finally, the law has taken its own course," Jaitley said.
BJP president Rajnath Singh told The Telegraph that his party would not "play politics" with the hanging.
"We do not see issues of national security and national sovereignty through a political prism. The Supreme Court had given a judgment and it had to be executed…. We have never challenged an SC judgment. That only the Congress does. The Congress's history shows that it only indulges in vote-bank politics," he said.
BJP sources said they could still score some brownie points. Given that the party had criticised the UPA government for not hanging Afzal, its campaign might replace the phrase "public opinion" with "BJP's pressure".
That the social networking sites and TV debates have reinforced the view that the hanging was the Congress's counter to Modi's rise might strengthen its campaign.
Some in the BJP conceded that the party should ready itself for more "surprises and ambushes" from the Congress.
Modi Kumbh trip off
Modi has called off his trip to the Maha Kumbh Mela on February 12 following a security advisory from the Uttar Pradesh government after Afzal's hanging.