With finance minister Arun Jaitley pouncing on what he called “irresponsible” remark of Singh where he seemed to contrast the “urgency” shown in Yakub Memon’s case with the the soft-peddaling of other terror accused, a harried Congress distanced itself from the remarks of the party general secretary as well as those of Tharoor.
In a series of tweets, Tharoor also questioned the death sentence. “Saddened by news that our government has hanged a human being. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too”, said Tharoor, while terming hanging
“unworthy of a government” and questioning its effectiveness as a deterrent against terrorism.
The twin comments triggered a row, especially Singh’s sentiment being seen as a bid to compare the Yakub hanging with other terror accused including those involving Hindu terrorists. “No individual, howsoever big, can change the stand of a political party,” AICC spokesman Randeep Surjewala said as the party tried to douse the controversy.
Congress said the comments of individuals were their personal opinion, citing senior BJP leader and MPs Shatrughan Sinha and Ram Jethmalani who signed the petition in favour of mercy for Yakub, owning the argument that he was innocent in Mumbai blasts. “What Sinha and Jethmalani say do not become the BJP stand,” Surjewala said.
Congress questioned BJP’s track record on terror while arguing that it had lost two prime ministers among other leaders to the menace while the saffron party had only released terrorists when it has been in power.
Surjewala said, “Jaitley and BJP leaders should not lecture Congress and the country on terror. From Punjab to North-East, we faced terror and also ended it. Congress lost Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, a chief minister in Punjab, to terrorists and top leaders in Chhattisgarh to naxals.”
He said BJP’s track record on terror was questionable as it released top terror merchants led by Masood Azhar to Afghanistan in the Vajpayee government while in the coalition government led by VP Singh, terrorists were released in exchange of Rabaiyya Sayeed. Also, when PM Vajpayee went to Pakistan on a bus, Pakistan captured the Kargil heights and hundreds of soldiers had to sacrifice their lives to win back the territory.
After Tharoor’s remarks were slammed by BJP and a section of netizens, the Congress leader noted in an article on a website that he had joined the public debate by expressing his sadness that the government has hanged a human being, whatever his crimes may have been. “I stressed that I was not commenting on the merits of this or any specific case: that’s for the Supreme Court to decide. My problem is with the principle and practice of the death penalty in our country,” he said in a blog.