The BJP and Congress traded barbs on Friday over a former external intelligence agency head’s revelation that the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was upset about the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief AS Dulat in an interview to a news channel spoke about his last meeting with the former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in which the BJP stalwart had said "humse se galti hui hai (we have made a mistake)" about the riots.
Dulat, who headed the spy agency till 2000 before he was appointed as special adviser in Vajpayee's PMO on Kashmir issue, said the grief because of the riots was "clearly visible" on the former PM's face.
Dulat’s comments, which also appeared in his recently-released book, gave the Congress new ammunition to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was chief minister of Gujarat when the riots occurred.
“Will Narendra Modi respect the words of the Bharat Ratna (Vajpayee) and apologise to the country for 2002?” party spokesperson Ajoy Kumar said.
He said it was Vajpayee who had reminded "chief minister Modi to follow raj dharma".
The BJP responded with a demand for an apology from the rival party for questioning Modi’s integrity on the basis of a book.
“Congress has used every method and every strata of the administration, as well as the courts and every court, including Supreme Court, has done 10 years or more of the most thorough investigation... and found nothing against the present honourable Prime Minister,” BJP spokesperson MJ Akbar said.
Dulat has also said that a crisis management group "goofed up" in the 1999 Indian Airlines hijack case, when the first NDA government was in power. The flight from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked by Harkat-ul-Mujahideen militants and taken to Kandahar in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan with 176 passengers on board.
Congress spokesperson Kumar asked under what circumstances the plane was allowed to leave Amritsar where it had stopped for refueling.
If the plane had been stopped at Amritsar, it would have saved the lives of a large number of innocent persons, he said, adding this was because three dreaded terrorists including Masood Azhar were released to secure release of the passengers.
He said that the tradeoff proved costly as the release of the three terrorists resulted in the killing of thousands of people with Masood Azhar leading the campaign of hate from Pakistan.
The BJP rejected the accusation, saying the decision to save the passengers was a collective call.
“It is regrettable, but perhaps their (Congress's) occasional amnesia, where it suits them. On Kandahar, consultations were held at the highest level by senior leaders of NDA. It was a national crisis. In the spirit of the Vajpayee government, consultations were held with all the parties,” said Akbar, the newly-elected BJP Rajya Sabha member from Jharkhand.