Congress launches frontal attack on Advani (Lead)

April 13th, 2009 - 8:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) The Congress Monday launched a blistering attack on Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) senior elader L.K. Advani, taking him on over the NDA government’s handling of the 1999 Kandahar hijacking and even his age.
Speaking at separate election rallies and press conferences, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi targetted Advani, especially over the Kandahar hijacking. Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka, referring to the BJP’s “budhiya” barbs, spoke of Advani’s age.

Talking tough, Manmohan Singh in Mumbai referred to the then BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government exchanging three terrorists for the Indian Airlines hostages in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December 1999, and said one of them (Masood Azhar) later founded the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammed terror outfit. Advani was the home minister then.

“By contrast… we did not negotiate with terrorists” after the terror attacks in Mumbai last year, Singh said, adding that “our commandos did us proud”. “That is the difference between us and the BJP.”

Referring to L.K. Advani’s television interview in which he claimed that he was not aware of the release of the terrorists then, the prime minister wondered if the BJP trusted him (Manmohan Singh) more than its own home minister.

He also took on the BJP leader for repeatedly calling him a weak prime minister and said speaking loudly is no indication of one’s strength but the ability to “act in time is”. “Advani can’t get away with false accusations,” he said.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, speaking at Kochi, in Kerala, took on an aggressive tone, questioning Advani’s claim of being a strong leader and reminded him that he was the country’s home minister when Kandahar happened.

Like Manmohan Singh, he too referred to Advani’s statement that he was unaware about the release of the terrorists, and said, “Either the prime minister (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) did not trust him or he is not telling the truth.”

“I would be happy if he answers this.”

In Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi also attacked Advani on the same issue, saying he was the home minister when Kandahar happened. She raised questions on Advani’s leadership capabilities.

She asserted that the same released terrorists later attacked the Indian Parliament in 2001 and were responsible for several other terror strikes in the country.

Priyanka Gandhi, campaigning in Rahul Gandhi’s constituency Amethi, referring to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi calling the Congress party a “budhiya” (old hag), said Advani and Modi had misconceptions about their own age and fancied themselves as young, and this was why they consider Rahul Gandhi to be a novice.

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