Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday tore into the BJP’s claims of being tough on terror as he raked up the ‘Kandahar hijack’ in which three terrorists were freed by the Vajpayee government and claimed that 22,000 people were killed in terror attacks during the NDA’s six-year rule.
Taking on the opposition party which has accused the Congress government of being soft on terror, he said the then top functionaries of the BJP government, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, bowed to the wishes of hijackers while the Congress had always stood up to terrorists.
“Kandahar hijack happened. Their top leaders from number one to five saluted them (hijackers), asked them what do you want. Money was given to them. Terrorists were released and Jaswant Singh (then External Affairs Minister) went with them to Pakistan,” he said addressing a public meeting in Kashipur.
The Congress vice president was referring to the hijack of an Indian Airlines plane in December 1999 during its flight from Kathmandu to Delhi. It was taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan and three dreaded terrorists were freed in exchange for the passengers held hostage in the aircraft for about eight days.
Jaswant Singh had gone along with the freed terrorists to Kandahar, which became a matter of huge controversy. Among the freed terrorists was Masood Azhar, who later floated the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit in Pakistan and carried out a number of attacks in India.
The same terrorists, Rahul said, carried out numerous attacks in India including the one on Parliament in 2001.
He said 22,000 people, including soldiers, lost their lives in terrorist violence during the Vajpayee government between 1998 and 2004 because “BJP bowed to the wishes of terrorists and it also practised the politics of anger”.
On the contrary, only 800 such deaths occurred during the five years of UPA-II regime, he said, crediting the Congress’ politics of “brotherhood and harmony” for the sharp decline.
Rahul also claimed that terrorism in Kashmir had ended because of the Congress government’s policy.
“The terrorism in Kashmir is over. Peace prevails in the valley. How? Because of the Congress government,” Rahul said.
Reaching out to ex-servicemen, who form a significant section of the electorate in the hilly state of Uttarakhand, he said the Congress had already granted them one-rank-one-pension while the BJP was making the same promise in its manifesto.
“We delivered on it three months. They (BJP) are still talking about it. Wake up, move on,” he said, taunting the BJP.