New Delhi: The BJP and the Congress on Friday engaged in a political slugfest over former RAW chief A.S. Dulat's claims that IC-814 hijacking case of 1999 was mishandled.
While the Congress sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's apology over the "goof-up" by the then NDA government in the case, as claimed by Dulat, the Bhartiya Janata Party retorted that all decisions at that time were taken at the highest level.
"If the BJP still does not accept that the NDA government was blissfully soft on terror, then the people of India will never judge them kindly. The BJP has an ingrained habit of brazening out their own misdeeds, which they are again repeating in this (Narendra) Modi sarkar," Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan told the media here.
"The Congress demands that the prime minister and the BJP apologise unconditionally to the nation for having aided, abetted and favoured anti-India elements, terrorists and criminals. They should apologise for having ensured that terrorists were released and flown to safe havens in Pakistan so that they continue to bleed India," he said.
Former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief A.S. Dulat on Thursday said no clear instructions were given to police on December 24, 1999, when the hijacked Indian Airlines plane landed in Amritsar, because of which the hijackers took the plane to Kandahar in Afghanistan.
"Dulat's revelations are a severe indictment of the then BJP government (led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee) and establishes that self-styled nationalism of the BJP is guided by extension of help to terrorists and criminals on humanitarian grounds," the Congress spokesperson said.
He added: "All these instances vindicate the stand of the Indian National Congress. All these instances have been in the public domain but the BJP refuses to acknowledge them. They now stand thoroughly exposed by an inside account."
Another Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar told the media that Dulat's comments revealed "disturbing facts".
"They (the BJP) have compromised the interests of the country whenever they have been in power. Who was behind these decisions," he asked.
Dulat's book 'Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years' is slated for release shortly.
The BJP hit back, saying the decision to release terrorists was taken at the "highest level" and no question arises of the prime minister's apology regarding 2002 riots.
"On Kandahar, consultations were held at the highest level by senior leaders of the National Democratic Alliance," BJP spokesperson M.J. Akbar said.
On the Congress' demand for the prime minister's apology, Akbar said: "It was a national crisis and in the spirit of the (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee government, consultations were held with all the parties. Everybody was kept in the loop."
"Should those 400-plus Indians have been allowed to die," Akbar asked.
"On Kandahar, the Congress has a very convenient memory...it's regrettable...perhaps they have occasional lapses of amnesia when it suits them," he added.
The opposition party also raked up the post-Godhra riots issue.
"Dulat says that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee believed that he lost the 2004 general elections in view of the Gujarat riots...Bharat Ratna Vajpayee has clearly condemned...the shameful incidents of 2002," Ajoy Kumar said.
He said it was Vajpayee who reminded Chief Minster Modi to "follow raj dharma".
"Will Narendra Modi respect the words of the Bharat Ratna awardee and apologise to the country for 2002 (Gujarat riots)," the Congress leader asked.
Responding to the remarks, BJP leader M.J. Akbar also demanded an apology from the Congress for raising questions about Modi's integrity, citing Gujarat riots.
"There is no question of the prime minister's apology regarding 2002 riots. He was exonerated in the matter," Akbar said.