India Elections : Manmohan Singh takes on Advani

In a stinging counter-attack to allegations of him being weak, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday referred to the sequence of events during the 1999 Kandahar hijacking incident and said that the Bharatiya Janata Partys Iron Man was quick to melt on that occasion.

Mr. Advani has the unique ability to combine strength in speech with weakness in action. This is not the kind of strength we need, he remarked.

He then tore into the tough image of Advani, saying the `Iron Man’ “melted” when he allowed Maulana Masood Azhar (the Jaish-e-Mohammed founder) to be flown to Kandahar in a trade-off for hostages of Indian Airlines plane that was hijacked in December 1999.

Singh said it was ironical that Advani, who was the Union home minister then, claimed he was kept in the dark about the decision to send Masood Azhar along with then external affairs minister Jaswant Singh to Kandahar. “BJP chief Rajnath Singh has said that even he was consulted about the decision,” he added.

“When terrorists attacked Mumbai on 26/11, we did not negotiate with them, but killed all of them except one who was captured live. In sharp contrast, the BJP government negotiated with terrorists and exchanged three of them for Indian Airlines hostages in Kandahar, in December 1999.”

On Advani’s `pro-Jinnah’ persona, Manmohan said, “I will not say things in Pakistan that offend every Indian and then change my stand when it becomes politically inconvenient with my party.”

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