NOIDA/BENGALURU: A bitter political slugfest broke out with Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday pinning the onus of the Pulwama strike on the then BJP government’s release of Masood Azhar in the wake of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 hijacking to Kandahar in 1999 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi slamming the Congress for its handling of terror incidents post the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
“Let PM Modi tell the nation who released Masood Azhar from an Indian jail,” said Gandhi during a rally in Karnataka. “Who and which government sent him back?” he asked.
The then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had released Azhar, Omar Sheikh, and Mushtaq Ahmad Zargram in exchange for the passengers of IC-814 after present National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, had then negotiated the deal with the hijackers.
PM Modi hit back at the Congress during an event in Noida, saying, “The corrupt are opposing and abusing me in order to get votes. India works on ‘nayi reeti, nayee neeti ( New method, new policies),” he said, asserting, “After the Uri attack in 2016, the country, for the first time, taught terrorists a lesson even as their guardians did not expect such action.”
This was “in sharp contrast to the events post-Mumbai when the Congress government did nothing,” he said.
“There are reports that our forces were ready to avenge the terror attack immediately after the Mumbai attack, but Delhi was cold. The forces were not allowed to take any action,” claimed Modi.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh also took on Gandhi while speaking at a rally in Mangaluru. He claimed that India conducted three cross-border strikes over the last five years and made it plain that “while India will not provoke anyone, it will not leave anyone if provoked.”
This, he said, was a new declaration of the country’s intent, that was not seen in the past.
However, in the course of his speech, the minister only spoke about the 2016 strike and the IAF aerial strike in Balakot recently but did not reveal anything else.