Nearly a month after the gruesome terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday raised significant questions over the BJP's decision to release Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar during the Kandahar standoff in 1999. Addressing a public gathering in north Karnataka's Haveri, the Gandhi scion further slammed PM Modi for the death of 42 CRPF jawans in the gruesome Pulwama terror attack on February 14. The Jaish-e-Mohammad had claimed responsibility for the attack. The Congress chief was in the state to launch his party's election campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from the BJP's stronghold of Haveri.
A few days ago, our soldiers were martyred in Pulwama. I have a small question for PM Modi - Who is responsible for the attack? Who sent Masood Azhar back to Pakistan? What is the name of the JeM chief," the Congress president was quoted as saying in Haveri.
"Ajit Doval, who is the National Security Advisor for the Modi Govt, escorted head of JeM Masood Azhar back to Pakistan. We are not like Narendra Modi, we don't bow down to terrorists," he added.
"Why are you not speaking about it. Why are you not saying that the person who killed CRPF jawans was sent to Pakistan by BJP... Modiji we are not like you. We don't bow in front of terror. Make it clear to people to India who sent Masood Azhar," he said.
Moving on the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, the Congress president said, "There are reports that our forces were ready to avenge 26/11 Mumbai attacks, but they were not allowed to act".
Gandhi also alleged that while Modi talked about corruption, the whole country knew he was corrupt. The Congress chief said the ruling alliance of Congress and JD-S in Karnataka would fight the Lok Sabha elections together and win it. Gandhi also accused Modi of "fooling" the people of the country for the last five years with his programmes like "Make in India, Stand Up India and Sit Down India".
What is the Kandahar incident?
On December 24, 1999, Indian Airlines flight IC 814 from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked by Harkat Ul Mujahideen terrorists. The hijackers demanded the release of three people in Indian custody - Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Omar Sheikh. Post that, the Vajpayee government relented and asked the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and the then Intelligence Bureau Chief Ajit Doval to escort the three terrorists to Kandahar in Afghanistan, where they were handed over to the Taliban.
With the BJP having won three consecutive polls from Haveri Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress is seeking to woo back its vote bank ahead of the parliamentary elections due by May.
Congress leader Saleem Ahmad, who has been defeated in past polls, is hoping to contest for the third time from Haveri. Other top contenders for the ticket include DR Patil, brother of Congress leader H K Patil and former legislator Basavaraj Shivannavar. Minister Zameer Ahmed, who is in charge of Haveri district, is also demanding a ticket for his community either from Dharwad or Haveri parliamentary constituency.