Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jailtey on Tuesday defended the Vajpayee government’s releasing the three most wanted terrorists in return for the safety of passengers of the Indian Airlines plane hijacked to Kandahar in 1999, saying the lives of all Indians were "more precious" than the release of the terrorists.
He said in reply to a question that if the National Democratic Alliance returns to power at the Centre its government would definitely ask Pakistan to hand over those accused of the plane hijack. Jaitley's remarks about the plane hijack came in response to a question at a press conference how the NDA government would handle national security when it had freed three hardcore terrorists in the plane hijack crisis in 1999.
Jaitley said would be no compromise with the national security. The plane had been hijacked from Kathmandu and its last take-off point from India was Amritsar.
The hijack drama and the plane passenger hostage crisis had lasted for seven days before India freed three militants Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar who have since been implicated in other terrorist actions, including September 9/11, kidnap and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl and November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Jaitley accused the United Progressive Alliance government of having failed to give good governance and to tackle inflation, unemployment, strengthen national security and indulged in scams including coal blocks allocation, 2G telecom spectrum allocation and chopper purchase deal.
He claimed Narendra Modi has the capability to lead the nation to give good governance as Modi has vision due to his several years of track record as chief minister of Gujarat where he had "brought revolution in industry". Moreover, Modi would give new direction to Indian nation, Jaitley claimed.
The BJP leader said if NDA was voted to power and if the international border with Pakistan is opened, Amritsar would be turned into a trade hub. He said if NDA forms the government at the Centre, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would enjoy "considerable respect".
He claimed the masses of the country want a change of guard as they are "fed up" with the "poor governance" of the UPA and voters have made up their mind to ensure NDA forms the next government. Aiming at local sentiments, Jaitely said he has old childhood connections with Amritsar city. He said he has no business, job or any engagements as he was a full-time politician and would remain full time in politics.
He was asked if he would remain in Amritsar irrespective of his victory or defeat in the elections. Responding to a question about his nomination from Amrtisar in place of his party colleague and sitting member of Parliament cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu who was reportedly upset for not being renominated, Jaitley said Sidhu has persuaded him to contest elections from Amritsar.
Jaitley said he has personal warm relations with Sidhu and there was no room for any misunderstanding between them. He claimed that in the coming days Sidhu would be part of his election campaign.
According to Jaitely, Sidhu was offered a seat to contest from Chandigarh and Kurukeshtra but he refused and insisted on fighting from Amritsar since Sidhu was having his own values. Earlier in the morning, Jaitley held a roadshow on his maiden visit to the city since being chosen BJP LS poll candidate from here.
There was a brief commotion and panic during the roadshow when a set of balloons went off with the hit of crackers at Lawrence Road locality. Punjab cabinet minister Anil Joshi was holding the balloons and Jaitely was standing along with him.
Joshi received minor burn injuries on his forehead since when balloons went off the plastic material of balloons melted and fell on Joshi.