The latest Maoist attack triggered a war of words between Arun Jaitley and P Chidambaram with the senior BJP leader on Tuesday saying the Home Minister looked like an "injured martyr" after he spoke of a "limited mandate".
Chidambaram reacted swiftly to say it was an "unfortunate choice of words" by Jaitley, who, he said would not have made this remark had he reflected for a moment over Monday's Naxal attack near Dantewada in which at least 35 persons were killed.
Jaitley also said it is also time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke on the Naxal issue and gave his views.
Responding to Chidambaram's remarks Monday, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said, "Chidambaram appeared to be an injured martyr. He looked disheartened...He claimed he had only a limited mandate from the Cabinet Committee on Security as against the larger mandate that he desired."
The Home Minister while reacting to Jaitley's barb said, "I believe he (Jaitely) said that I look like an injured martyr. I think it was an unfortunate choice of words, if he had reflected for a moment, he would not have used those words. The injured and the martyrs are both in Chhattisgarh among the jawans and the SPOs who were injured and died."
He also asked BJP and other parties to maintain a bipartisan approach over the naxal issue.
In the context of four states wanting use of air power against the Maoists for tougher action against Naxals, Chidambaram yesterday said "I took to the Cabinet Committee case for a larger mandate, I was given a limited mandate."
Jaitley also accused UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and other top Congress leaders of supporting a "softline" towards Naxals and warned that giving a limited mandate to Chidambaram in the fight against the menace was akin to waging a losing battle.
Hitting out at the UPA government for waging a "half-battle" against the Maoists, Jaitley said "It is time the Prime Minister stood up and spoke on the issue and told the nation what are his views on the subject.
"Is he(Singh) only in favour of a limited mandate to fight the Maoists?," Jaitley asked.
He asked the government whether the country would see a "half-battle" against Maoists or it will use all national security resources to eradicate naxalism.
Referring to Gandhi's recent letter in a Congress journal addressed to her party workers, the BJP leader alleged that it showed that she lent support to the softline on Maoists.
This meant Chidambaram had a limited mandate- as he himself stated in an interview- to fight naxalism, he said.
"It is no longer peripheral leaders who want a soft stand against the Maoists. It is the Centre-stage leadership of the party, which has now supported that stand," he said.
This is akin to fighting Maoists with one hand tied, he added. "A half battle against Maoists can never succeed. A half battle is a losing battle," Jaitley said.