Under attack day in and day out being called weak by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi today gave back in adequate measure with the latter saying either he is not speaking the truth or was not trusted by his leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the Kandahar episode.
Singh himself shed his usual demeanour and hit out at Advani saying he would not be found weeping in a corner while hoodlums tear down a centuries-old mosque, an obvious reference to the razing of Babri Masjid.
Targeting him on the Jinnah controversy that had brought Advani in the line of fire within BJP, the Prime Minister said he would not say things in Pakistan that offend every Indian and then abandon his stance when it became inconvenient within his party.
On his campaign trail in Kerala, Rahul Gandhi questioned Advani’s credentials as a strong leader and criticised him on the issue of release of terrorists in exchange for freedom of passengers of hijacked Indian aircraft to Kandahar.
Referring to Advani’s remarks that he did not know about the release of terrorists and the flight to Kandahar carrying Jaswant Singh, Rahul said "if he is such a strong leader, how come then the Home Minister did not know something ....there are two possibilities. Either he is not telling the truth or his senior leader the Prime Minister Vajpayee did not trust him".
"You should have resigned if the PM did not have faith in you. Did he buckle under pressure when Kandahar happened or Vajpayee not believe him. I want to know which is correct," Rahul asked.
He said the arrested terrorists were responsible for planning and carrying out a number of attacks in India subsequently including the strike on Parliament.
Saying that Advani had attacked Singh, who is the Prime Minister of every Indian, he wanted the youth of the country to know what Advani was doing when Kandahar happened.
At a press conference here, the Prime Minister said Advani had agreed to release the terrorists and subjected cabinet colleague Jaswant Singh to the humiliation of having personally escorted the terrorists during Kandahar episode to their safe haven.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as also the Gujarat carnage were blots on the secular image of the country.
"I feel both are blots on the secular image of the country. Such things should not happen," he said.
He said as an opposition party, Congress had forced the NDA government to take strong action against the Gujarat government in the aftermath of the riots.