Rajiv Gandhi’s would-be assassin to enter poll fray in Punjab (Lead)

March 30th, 2009 - 7:43 pm ICT by IANS  

By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, March 30 (IANS) As a 24-year-old, he hogged national headlines as the would-be assassin of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at Delhi’s Rajghat, the memorial to Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi. But after nearly 25 years, Karamjit Singh wants to fight with the ballot rather than with the bullet.

Now a practicing lawyer in Sunam town in Punjab’s Sangrur district, 180 km from here, Karamjit Singh says that he will file his nomination for the Patiala Lok Sabha seat next month.

“I want to adopt this democratic way of sending my message across. People understand more through the ballot rather than the bullet,” Singh told IANS from his hometown Sunam.

Singh was arrested by security agencies from a tree at Rajghat where he hid himself for almost 10 days to carry out an assassination attempt on Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. The attack was carried out on Oct 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Upset over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and Rajiv Gandhi’s statement that “the Earth shakes when a big tree (Indira Gandhi) falls”, a bitter Singh planned the assassination for months and bought a country-made revolver from Sriganganagar in Rajasthan for Rs.300 to execute it.

He had fired three bullets at Gandhi but none hit the target and the prime minister survived the attack. Singh told his interrogators that he had attacked Gandhi to seek revenge for the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 by Congressmen.

After a trial for attempt to murder, Singh was sentenced to 14 years in prison and was freed only in May 2000.

Singh says that he can contest the election now under the rules. “The law says that one cannot contest for six years after the sentence is completed. I am eligible now.”

But he still has no regrets about what he did.

“There is no regret for what happened (in 1986). But I want to move on,” he said.

“Now, I will fight through the ballot and not the bullet. My agenda is to oppose both the Akali Dal and the Congress because they have done nothing to get the guilty behind the 1984 riots punished,” he said.

Having done his graduation and post-graduation while he was in prison, Karamjit Singh now is not only a lawyer but also on the management of a school in Sunam town.

A leading lawyer here told IANS that Singh was eligible to contest under the Representation of People Act.

“In his case, he remained disqualified from contesting for six years after his (prison) term ended. He can do it now since he was released in year 2000,” the senior lawyer said.

Rajiv Gandhi may have survived Singh’s assassination attempt but fell to a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at Sriperumbadur in Tamil Nadu in May 1991.

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