Ahmedabad: As the death toll in the serial bomb blasts in the Gujarat capital climbed to 45 and opposition parties ratcheted up their criticism of the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for failing to counter terror, security fears spread to other parts of the country on Sunday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed the security situation in the country at a meeting with home minister Shivraj Patil and national security adviser M.K. Narayanan.
According to a home ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, the Prime Minister is expected to visit Ahmedabad, where the death toll in Saturday’s multiple bomb blasts rose to 45 on Sunday from an overnight 29.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Patil will accompany the Prime Minister during the visit on Monday, PTI reported, citing officials it didn’t name.
Patil told reporters the first priority of the Union government would be to ensure that the families of those killed or wounded in the blasts are provided relief. On the investigations into the blasts, the minister said, “We have recieved some material from the Gujarat government which is being analysed.”
Grief-stricken: Relatives of victims of the serial bomb blasts at a funeral procession in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Photograph: Amit Dave / Reuters
The explosions in Ahmedabad followed multiple low-intensity blasts on Friday in Bangalore, the Karnataka capital, in which at least one person was killed. As many as 63 people were killed in bomb explosions that rocked the Rajasthan capital of Jaipur in May. There have been 11 major bomb attacks since the UPA assumed office in 2004.
The government of Kerala put its police force on alert following anonymous phone calls from Pakistan to an unidentified Karnataka journalist warning that Kerala was to be targeted.
“I have been informed by the DGP (director general of police) of Karnataka about the terror threat to Kerala. We spoke to the journalist concerned who said he had received two calls today — one at 1pm and another at 3.30pm,” Kerala police chief Raman Srivastava said.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), the UPA’s former ally, criticized the Union government for its failure to contain terror attacks.
“The country wants to know from the Central government why it has failed, even after so many attacks, to track down and nail the terrorists,” the party’s politburo, its highest decision-making body, said in a statement. “What are the weaknesses in the intelligence set-up, in the coordination with state governments, in the urgent steps which are required to be taken?”
Bharatiya Janata Party senior leader Yashwant Sinha also blamed the UPA for failing to tackle terror attacks, linking it to the ruling coalition’s decision to scrap the Prevention of Terrorism Act, or Pota.
“India is sitting on a powderkeg. Scrapping of Pota has made the country a soft target,” Sinha said.
Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari said the responsibility of maintaining law and order in the states lay with state governments. “What can the central government do other than pass on intelligence to the state governments?” he said
Meanwhile, Gujarat police detained 30 suspects as part of their investigations into the blasts and enforced a top security alert across the state, where at least three more bombs were discovered and defused in Ahmedabad and Surat, the capital of India’s diamond industry.
Investigators in Surat found a car carrying detonators and a liquid that police suspect may be ammonium nitrate, a chemical often used in explosive devices, city police chief R.M.S. Brar said.
“It is these economic growth centres that seem to be the target of those behind the blasts,” said Vimal Ambani, chairman of Gujarat chapter of Confederation of Indian Industry, an industry lobby group.
The attacks have come at a time when the state government was in the final stages of preparing a new industrial policy that plans to boost agri-business, textiles, gems and jewellery, mineral-based industry and ship building.
K.P. Narayana Kumar in New Delhi, AP and PTI contributed to this story.